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What Lenovo Can Teach Us About Making Takeovers Work


If you are wondering where your transformational merger is going wrong, you may want to look in the toilets.

After Lenovo bought IBM’s personal computer business in 2005, the Chinese company replaced traditional squat toilets in its Beijing headquarters with western-style sit-down bowls to put non-Chinese colleagues and customers at ease.

It was just one symbol of the attention to detail that eventually made a success of the sometimes tortured integration of the two companies. Others included switching to English as the enlarged group’s corporate language from day one, to the distress of some Mandarin-speakers, and making sure coffee, as well as traditional loose-leaf tea, was available when westerners visited Chinese facilities.

Since January, Lenovo has announced the purchase of IBM’s x86 server business for US$2.3bn and the Motorola handset business from Google for US$2.9bn. Just absorbing one of those large deals would be challenging, but Yolanda Conyers, Lenovo’s chief diversity officer, told me the company has learnt from experience: “It’s gotten easier because we put the hard work in early.”

Published in the Gleaner
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