AT&T: Leading Change in a Post-Merger Environment

Over a 24-month period, BellSouth, Cingular Wireless, AT&T Mobility, and SBC Communications were integrated, creating the largest telecommunications company in the world with over $120 billion in revenue. The merger’s objectives were growth, innovation, and combined strength.

Aligning leaders on the goal of creating “One AT&T” was a top priority for the merged company of 285,000 employees. This required getting senior executives to agree on clear outcomes to pursue, and developing plans to drive the transitions, capitalize on growth opportunities, and address critical situations. The board of directors envisioned success—and expected results, which would rely heavily on the leaders’ execution and ability to facilitate change.

Scott designed an implementation that clearly connected the highest priority business objectives—profitable revenue growth, improved customer satisfaction, and increased employee engagement—with the pragmatic plans the business leaders would execute. Ultimately, nearly 5,000 leaders were involved in the effort, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, business unit managers, and the senior executive team. AT&T’s executive director of organizational development Seth Zimmer observed that, “One of Scott’s strengths is his ability to become intimate with an organization—asking insightful questions to learn about the culture and then using this information to guide change.”

Using strategies described in “Making Yourself Indispensable,” a Harvard Business Review article Scott co-authored, he collaborated with key leaders on the plans to weave four Fortune 500 companies into one powerful Fortune 10 entity with massive growth capacity. And, because the pace of change is so rapid in the telecommunications industry, the strategy emphasized using innovation to drive growth throughout the organization. Together with senior staff, Scott identified best practices employed by leaders who got the greatest results, and created a framework to apply across the business to cultivate innovation at every level and function.

During Scott’s three-year engagement, the merged company thrived—revenue went from $118 billion to $124 billion, and net income from $12 billion to $20 billion.

Edinger Consulting