According to Thomson Reuters, worldwide M&A deals rose 50 percent to $3.7 trillion in the last quarter of 2016, making it the third-largest annual period on record. And 2017 is looking very promising, with KPMG reporting 84 percent of organizations in their survey expecting to initiate a deal this year. Yet M&A can often disappoint.

Research shows that between 50 and 70 percent of deals fail to achieve anticipated results. Over half of M&A deals actually destroy shareholder value.

Increasing the chance of success starts with shifting deeply-held beliefs and behaviors, such as “financial value, not values, is what we really need to pay attention to.”

Most due diligence efforts focus primarily on logic and tangibles – the compelling numbers, the customer opportunity, the market share potential. Rarely does anyone practice the same rigor around combining leadership teams, employees and cultures. While you must have the tangibles that make up the strategy, it’s often the intangibles that get in the way of executing it. Or, as someone once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” For a deal to achieve its stated outcomes, a company must get at underlying beliefs and behaviors that make up the culture, and that are deeply rooted in emotion, to be sure that leaders and employees will embrace the new company strategy – and act in support of it. Consider these stats:

  •  75 percent of mergers fail to meet their objectives due to issues related to people, communication and culture.
  • 80 percent of integration problems stem from issues of culture.
  • 60 to 70 percent of realized deal value comes from “soft factors,” such as strategic alignment, organizational integration, and low employee resistance.

It’s easy to gloss over the difficult and slow-going work of aligning a new leadership team around a strategy, integrating two separate companies and engaging employees (who are experiencing tremendous change) to shift their behavior in their day-to-day roles. In the excitement to close the deal, it’s crucial to remember: You’re making a promise, a business case, to the market, and to deliver on it there must be a commitment to a thoughtful M&A integration process and plan that forges a shared identity and culture for the new organization. Indeed, after the deal closes is when the hard work really begins!

It can be easy to forget, while getting people get excited about a new, collective future, that they are giving up some of their past. A new story that’s a compelling rationale that goes beyond the dollars and cents and touches employees’ emotions can help bridge that gap. The best stories come from tapping into both companies’ brands, cultures, visions and histories.

Creating a shared vision of success and a common understanding of how to achieve that vision will help you successfully combine key talent to build a stronger team. In fact, choosing ambassadors – employees designated as “integration evangelists” – will help you navigate the inevitable difficulties and near-term setbacks that crop up during every M&A integration. Training ambassadors to lead the necessary culture change is a critical component of a successful integration plan. Invest early in your communications strategy – or your M&A may become just another statistic.