Most companies approach deal making as an art rather than as a corporate capability deployed to support a strategy, and they see individual deals as discrete projects rather than integral parts of that strategy. Few have found a way to build and continuously improve, across businesses, an M&A capability that consistently creates value—and does so better than competitors. As a result, many lament how hard M&A is and worry about the statistics highlighting the failure rate of deals rather than how to build a capability that helps them win in the marketplace.

In our experience, companies are more successful at M&A when they apply the same focus, consistency, and professionalism to it as they do to other critical disciplines.1 This requires building four often-neglected institutional capabilities: engaging in M&A thematically, managing your reputation as an acquirer, confirming the strategic vision, and managing synergy targets across the M&A life cycle. The ability to approach M&A in this way elevates it from a tactical necessity focused on risk management to a strategic capability delivering a competitive advantage that others will struggle to replicate.