Cooperation between Nordic companies and their Mexican subsidiaries
Cultural differences, efficiency, communication and managerial challenges ________________________________________
Survey by Human House 2012 Representations and native consultants covering East Africa, West Africa, China, India, Russia, Mexico, Scandinavia, UK and USA
Preface Human House would like to thank all the companies and individuals from companies for responding in so large numbers and with so many useful comments to this survey. Also we would like to thank for the great hospitality we have met during visits to companies in Mexico and Denmark and for the many ideas and suggestions we have received to the survey. The participation in meetings and seminars from the Nordic Chamber, Nordic embassies and all the private companies has proved that the subject has a great importance to many people. Finally but very essential we would like to thank the Mexican Embassy in Copenhagen and the Danish Embassy in Mexico City for support, advice and practical assistance to our work. It was most encouraging how the two ambassadors from the beginning took a personal interest in the survey and how the staffs at both embassies were equally courteous when providing professional services and informal advice. For free copies of the report please contact us: email@example.com For a free presentation and discussion in your company in Danish, Spanish or English, call us directly on +45 70 10 90 80 or send an email.
Jan Hyttel Managing Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Cecilia Hubard International Consultant email@example.com
Hugette Cervantes International Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please refer to page 33 for further contact details.
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INDEX A. Executive Summary …………………………………………………….….
B. Facts about the survey …………………………………………………….
C. The surveys headlines ……………………………………………………..
D. The survey in Details ………………………………………………………..
1. National culture and work place culture 2. Applying and implementing new rules and procedures set by HQ 3. Relations to colleagues 4. Positive and negative perceptions of leadership 5. The need for certainty 6. Written statements - extract from survey 7. Stereotypes - testing if they are a real challenge or not E. Recommendations from Human House …………………………………. 26 1. Considerations when working internationally 2. Culture on three levels - Region, organisation, individual 3. Coordinating and managing - Time zones, virtual teams, out posting, lines of command 4. Analysing the regional and national differences 5. Analysing the organisational culture 6. The trip goes to Mexico - remember the big five from the survey F. Contact info ………………………………………………………………….. 33
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A. Executive Summary Mexico and Latin America is an expanding market and a target equally for export and for distribution and production of goods. A large number of Danish and Nordic companies have established branches and subsidiaries in the region. This 2012 survey by Human House has aimed to investigate what kind of differences, challenges, similarities and possibilities arises when the Head Quarter of the company is placed in the Nordic area and the subsidiary is placed in Mexico. When Nordic participative culture with low hierarchy at the work place meets the Mexican hierarchical culture with huge socio demographic differences what happens to efficiency and cooperation?
The bottom line is that the two cultures seems to socialise quite well and actually even to like each other on the personal level, but the practical cooperation and efficiency is burdened by a number of differences in preferences in regards to organising and managing the work.
The Mexicans would like the Nordics to be available and present on site in Mexico to enable a close teamwork, but the Nordics like to delegate and not give instructions and in large numbers prefers to have a local director employed.
The Mexicans find that procedures and systems - neither internal nor external towards the customers - don't fits very well into the Mexican context, but the Nordic headquarters don't think they should be adjusted.
The basic differences and the attached challenges know from other cultural studies and researches are confirmed by the almost 100 participating 'real life' managers in 2012.
Combining the respondents written comments and the statistical data a major challenge - maybe the major challenge - is expressed as illustrated in this small figure.
It's positive to delegate. - But it's negative to follow up and to give instructions.
It's positive to have a close teamwork. - But it's negative not to have a running dialogue.
Enjoy the report and feel free to contacts us for explanations and further discussions.
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B. Facts about the survey
In 2011 Human House decided to set up an office and operations in Mexico. With a native born Mexican consultant working for Human House in Denmark as team leader a number of activities was started. The most important of these was to collect more knowledge about the cooperation between Danish (Nordic) and Mexican companies and managers. In close cooperation with the Danish Embassy in Mexico City and the Mexican Embassy in Copenhagen several steps were taken. Interviews During 2011 qualitative surveys was made in Denmark and in Mexico. Primarily by visiting and interviewing a number of HQ directors in Denmark and sales directors and country responsible in Mexico. From these interviews we concluded some areas of interest for further investigation. It appeared that there were some challenging differences in workplace cultures and national cultures. Also different perceptions of procedures, norms and politics were mentioned several times and common stereotypes were mentioned as not only being stereotypes but also being true. The interviews were analysed and created the basic for the following quantitative, internet based survey. After the internet based survey some of the data has been tested and clarified through another round of interviews. Internet based survey Early 2012 the internet based survey was send to CEO's, managers and a few other key informants. Through the Nordic Chamber in Mexico not only Danish but all Nordic companies were invited to participate, based on the assumption that the challenges would be the same for companies from that region OR for Mexicans cooperating with any Nordic culture. Names and mailing lists were created still in cooperation with the embassies mentioned above. As the target group consisted of the actual CEO's and managers of the companies the expectations were set to 'any number of respondents higher than 30' would give us useful data and representation. Eventually the result was more than 80 answers and in addition to this more than 50 respondents had used the opportunity to enter additional written comments in the survey. We take this as a proof that the subject is important and the categories of questions were relevant. Demography in the survey ď‚ˇ The Nordic group of managers from headquarters is for obvious reasons smaller than the Mexican and represent approximately 25% of the answers and Mexicans 75%. ď‚ˇ
'Nordics' are actually Danes apart from a very few respondents from Norway and Sweden. As these respondents correlate 100% in their answers, we have handled them as one group.
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'Mexicans' are 95% Mexicans and a few other Latin Americans. Also here the respondents correlate.
90% of all respondents indicate that they represent high or middle management.
More than 90% have Master degrees or similar.
60% have had positions abroad in longer periods.
Indicating totally that the results are coming from precisely the people in power in Denmark and the Nordic area and in Mexico. How can this survey be used? This survey is not intended to be scientific, but merely aim at providing information that can be of use when establishing collaborations between Mexican and Nordic organisations. The purpose of this survey is to highlight the cultural similarities and differences between Mexican and Nordic work place cultures. By doing this it has become apparent what potential strengths and weaknesses that lies in a close collaboration between Mexican and Nordic business cultures. The survey has highlighted what Mexican and Nordic managers in organisations value; appreciate and wish for in their work life. Taken together, these aspects provide companies with an invaluable overview of what to take into account when creating productive collaborations between Mexico and the Nordic region.
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C. Conclusions and headlines from the survey The main conclusions from all the different parts of the survey are listed below and are representing a short cut to the findings. In the report the headlines will be repeated for each chapter and explained by use of the surveys data and graphics.
There is a considerable difference between the normal workplace culture in Mexico and the Nordic area. This is evident in different expectations to employees being involved in decision making: Nordics anticipate involvement, Mexicans do not. Likewise, Nordics do not think that employees rely on managers for direction in their home countries, whereas Mexicans believe that employees highly rely on managers for direction is expected in Mexico.
The differences in national workplace culture have been equalized to Nordic style in the Mexican subsidiaries. The workplace culture is equalized into a mainly Nordic culture in the subsidiaries in Mexico. Especially in questions related to power distance it seems that small Nordic workplace islands has been created in Mexico.
Communication and expectations about work tasks are unclear In some cases close related to communication and delegation the perception of the situation is totally different between the two target groups.
The Mexican are technically able to implement new rules set by HQ, but would generally like to make some 'tropical' adjustments. Mexicans perceive HQ guidelines to be implementable. However, they don’t agree with or recommend the guidelines.
The Nordics to some extent also believe the procedures can be implemented, but don’t' think they fit in very well.
The Nordics are only to a limited extend ready to discuss adjustments.
Neither Mexicans nor Nordics think the procedures fits very well into a Mexican context, but they do not agree on what to do.
It is important for both Mexicans and Nordics to have friendly relationships with their co-workers.
Nordics delegate but don't like giving instructions and following up This seems paradoxical from a Mexican point of view, since delegation of tasks must, to some extent, depend on giving instructions about the task to the subordinate. 7 Copyright Human House A/S
Mexicans like teamwork and being able to follow up The Mexican group emphasises that being left without possibility of communicating is a problem and that clear lines of command and teamwork is positive.
Mexicans like to be sure, 'better safe than sorry', Nordics don't want to be restricted by rules
In professional business we keep the rules both in Mexico and the Nordic area Neither Nordics nor Mexicans think that rules are meant to be broken. An interesting questions, though, is if they have same tolerance for when and how much is regarded as 'breaking rules'. The written comments found in the survey indicate different perspectives.
Statements about Mexicans: Rule followers, respects hierarchy
Statements about the Nordics: Hard working, strict, formal, goal oriented
Nordics are punctual – Mexicans are late Mexican and Nordics seem to have different standards of how important it is to be on time or even more important; what it means to be on time.
Mexicans don't say 'NO'. Both Mexican and Nordics agree that it is a challenge that Mexicans are generally not very clear and assertive.
Nordics think they are rude, but that's not a challenge. The real challenge is that they don’t give positive feed-back.
Nordics think they understand Mexican culture - the Mexicans doubt it The Nordics don’t think, that it is a challenge that only Latins truly understand the meaning of “mañana” – the Mexicans on the other hand, think that it is a challenge.
Some stereotypes don't exist…. In three questions there are no real hit from the many respondents. The Mexicans think that Mexicans don't prioritize well, but the Nordics don't find it a problem. The Nordics think it's some kind of a challenge that Nordics like improvise while working, but the Mexicans don't find it a challenge. Finally neither Mexicans nor Nordics find it a challenge that Nordics in democratic fashion treats everybody equal OR they don't really recognise this behaviour at all.
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D. The survey in details 1. National work culture and work culture in the current company This section deals with the surveyors’ evaluation of culture and norms in their home country and in company. The participants were asked to answer to what degree they agree on different statements – first considering their home country and then their company. The statements will give a picture of the participants need for certainty and their perception of the hierarchical work structure.
There is a considerable difference between the normal workplace culture in Mexico and the Nordic area. Cultural differences are perceived high between the work place culture in Mexico and the Nordic area. This result supports the exiting evidence from ITAP International and Human House' databases and findings. 80 managers' answers strongly support this fact. See differences in figures number 1, 4, 5, 7. Overall this section indicates that cultural differences need to be considered in the cooperation between Nordics and Mexicans. There is a difference between what is expected in a Mexican work context and a Nordic one. This is evident, for example, in different expectations to employees being involved in decision making: Nordics anticipate involvement, Mexicans do not. Likewise, Nordics do not think that employees rely on managers for direction in their home countries, whereas Mexicans believe that employees highly rely on managers for direction is expected in Mexico.
The differences in national workplace culture have been equalized to Nordic style in the Mexican subsidiaries. The workplace culture is equalized into a mainly Nordic culture in the subsidiaries in Mexico. Especially in questions related to power distance it seems that small Nordic workplace islands has been created in Mexico. (Figures 1, 5, 7) When Mexicans and Nordics asses how the statements fit their own company, an interesting tendency is uncovered: The two groups agree more on expectations and conditions in their company than in their home countries. This is of great importance as it indicates that differences rooted in nationalities can be equalized in cooperation.
Communication and expectations about work tasks is unclear In some case close related to communication and delegation the perception of the situation is totally different between the two target groups. (Figures 2, 3) Even if the difference between the Nordics and the Mexicans is generally diminishing when it comes to the company, there are two related cases of increasing difference, namely in the respondents’ indication of whether tasks are clearly presented and if they are ambiguous and less well defined. In this case the Nordics do not think that tasks are well defined whereas the Mexicans do. 9 Copyright Human House A/S
Results from the survey Figures 1 â€“ 7 on Workplace culture
Figure 1: Managers consult employees and expect them to participate in decision making?
Percentage of answers that agree or highly agree. Divided into answers from the Nordic group and the Mexican group and separately showing the respondents perception of home country culture and their organisational culture.
Employees participate in decisions in Nordic workplace culture but not in Mexican. But in the Mexican subsidiaries, Nordic style seems to be duplicated. According to these ratings, employees are judged to be far more likely to be consulted by their managers in Nordic countries than in Mexican companies. Furthermore, Mexicans rate this to be much more likely in their own workplace than in Mexican companies on general.
Figure 2: Home country
Work tasks are clearly presented?
Percentage of answers that agree or highly agree. Divided into answers from the Nordic group and the Mexican group and separately showing the respondents perception of home country culture and their organisational culture.
45- 50 % of both Nordic and Mexican managers agree that work tasks are generally clearly presented in their home country. With regards to their company the Nordicsâ€™ evaluations are the same, but the Mexicansâ€™ evaluations are quite different - almost 80% agree on this! So the Mexican judge that work tasks in their company are presented in a significantly clearer fashion, than in other Mexican companies.
Figure 3: Work tasks are ambiguous and less defined
Percentage of answers that agree or highly agree. Divided into answers from the Nordic group and the Mexican group and separately showing the respondents perception of home country culture and their organisational culture.
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About 35% of the Mexicans and 45% of the Nordics agree that works tasks in their home country are generally ambiguous and less defined. However there is a much larger difference with regards to the evaluations of the work tasks at their company. Here, approximately 15% of the Mexicans agree, whereas 45% of the Nordic respondents agree. Hence, the Nordic level remains the same, while the Mexicans perceive the work tasks at their company to be considerably less ambiguous and less definedâ€?, than the work tasks in their home country in general.
Figure 4: A manager only makes decisions appropriate to his or her level?
This is an evaluation, of whether managers only make decisions appropriate to their level. The Nordic group tend to disagree that this is the case in their home country, whereas almost 70% of Mexicans agree. This difference is somewhat minimized with regards to the evaluations of the company, but still the Nordics agree considerably less than the Mexicans.
Figure 5: Employees rely on their manager for direction?
Employees are judged to rely much more on their manager for direction in Mexico, than in Nordic Countries; but again, Nordics and Mexicans agree on the level of manager-reliance within their own company, and furthermore the company level is judged to be in between of the general Mexican and the general Nordic level of employeesâ€™ reliance on their managers.
Figure 6: It is more important to get work done than to go through official channels?
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Almost 70 % of the Nordics agree that it is more important to get work done than to go through official channels in their home country. Only 50% of the Mexicans agree. The two bar charts actually look quite similar, but there seems to be a tendency for the managers to agree less on the statement when it comes to their company.
Figure 7: An organisation with fewer levels of management functions better?
Almost all (95%) of the Nordics but only about 55% of the Mexicans, agree that an organization with fewer levels of management, functions better in their home country. The difference is much smaller with regards to the company in which they are employed, but still the Nordics tend to agree more than their Mexican colleagues.
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2. Applying and implementing new rules and procedures set by HQ This section is focusing on procedures, norms and rules coming from Nordic HQs to the Mexican subsidiaries.
The Mexicans are technically able to implement the new rules set by HQ, but would generally like to make some adjustments. This section has highlighted some interesting points regarding implementation of HQ procedures. Most importantly, it shows that the Mexicans perceive HQ guidelines to be implementable. However, they don’t agree with or recommend the guidelines, but believe that it would be an advantage to make some adjustments to fit better into the organisation and the country.
The Nordics to some extent also believe the procedures can be implemented, but like their Mexican colleagues they don’t' think they fit in very well.
Nonetheless the Nordics are only to some limited extend ready to discuss potential adjustments as it is important to them, that the company has a fixed international standard. There is a potential conflict in the fact that neither of the two groups thinks the procedures fits very well into a Mexican context, but doesn't agree on what to do.
Two very central set of questions and answers compares the different perceptions of procedures, norms and rules. (Please compare with graphics next page.) Column one - can things be implemented in Mexico: The Mexicans feel that it is – to some extend – easy to implement all the rules, standards and procedures set by HQ. The Nordics’ evaluation of how easy this implementation is for the subsidiary in Mexico looks very much the same. Column two - do they fit well in Mexico? This figure shows both Nordic and Mexican evaluations of the compatibility between the rules, standards and procedures set by HQ, and the Mexican context in which the HQ guidelines is to be implemented. The answers of the two groups are quite similar, but within each group there is no general trend. Most remarkable is the fact that only between 33 and 36% in each group thinks that the procedures actually fit well. Column three - will and may we make adjustments? The Mexicans would generally like to make some adjustments to the new rules set by HQ. The Nordics judge that HQ only to a limited extent is willing to discuss adjustments. Column four - will adjustments be useful or permitted? The Mexicans say that it would be useful to make some modifications to the rules set by HQ. The Nordics on the other hand say that it is important that the subsidiary implement all rules so the company keeps an international standard.
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Figure 8 and 9: Four corresponding pairs of questions were aimed at respectively the Nordic and Mexican respondents: Mexican questions and answers 1. It is easy for you and your team to implement all the rules, standards and procedures set by HQ?
2. The rules, standards and procedures set by HQ fit well into the Mexican context? 3. When HQ sends new rules, standards and procedures you would like to make adjustments? 4. It would be useful to make some modifications to rules, standards or procedures so they adapt to your country? Nordic questions and answers 1. It is easy for the subsidiary in Mexico to implement the rules, procedures and standards set by HQ? 2. The rules, standards and procedures set by HQ fit well into the Mexican context? 3. When implementing new rules, standards and procedures HQ are willing to discuss adjustments? 4. It is necessary that the subsidiary implements all rules, standards and procedures so the company keeps an international standard? Agree and totally agree Neutral Disagree and totally disagree
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3. Relations How is the interaction with colleagues at work? How do people like to interact with their colleagues and is it necessary to have friendly relationships with colleagues? ď‚ˇ
It is important for both Mexican and Nordic managers and employees to have friendly relationships with their co-workers. If they somehow experience a negative relationship to a co-worker it can have detrimental effects on their performance.
It is important to maintain friendly relationship with my co-workers?
20 10 0 No
Both the Mexicans and the Nordics generally say that it is important to have a friendly relationship.
40 Nordic region
It may cause deterioration in my performance if I do not maintain good relationship with my co-workers?
20 10 0
They generally agree that it will cause deterioration in their performances if they do not maintain good relationships.
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4. Positive and negative perceptions of leadership The respondents have been asked about their preferences - likes and dislikes - when performing and receiving leadership. The illustrations below are extracts from the survey, please note that the actual questions contained longer sentences. ď‚ˇ
Nordics delegate but don't like giving instructions and following up The Nordic group likes to delegate and coach but will not give instructions and follow up. They score high on delegating assignments to subordinates, but are less interested in giving instructions and following up on subordinatesâ€™ work. This could seem paradoxical, since delegation of tasks must, to some extent, depend on giving instructions about the task to the subordinate.
Mexicans like teamwork and being able to follow up The Mexican group emphasises that being left without possibility of communicating is a problem and that teamwork is positive.
Figure 12: The Positive words on leadership:
The Mexican group answers that positive leadership is about encouraging team work, focusing on results and coaching. The Nordics prefer delegation, coaching and focusing on results. Although they apparently generally seem to agree on what the important aspects of positive leadership is there are major differences when looking into the details. Please refer also to some of the written remarks in a later chapter.
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Figure 13: The Negative words on leadership
The Mexicans say that the negative aspects of leadership are: Improvising, communicating only when asked and supervising. It should also be noted that in the Mexican group a high number compared to the Nordics actually defined 'delegating' as being a negative word. The Nordic groups say: Giving instructions to subordinates, improvising and supervising.
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5. Certainty This section concerns the surveyorsâ€™ need for certainty in their work. In some situations it can also be expressed as the need to avoid uncertainty i.e. how often do a person double check, ask for instructions and rely to the framework of rules and guidelines. ď‚ˇ
Mexicans like to be sure, better safe than sorry, Nordics don't won't to be restricted by rules The Mexicans generally prefer a high degree of structure, with well-defined rules and job-tasks. For the Nordics it is exactly the opposite. They thrive with loosely defined job-tasks, a minimum of rules, and they generally prefer flexibility over structure.
In professional business we keep the rules both in Mexico and the Nordic area Neither Nordics nor Mexicans think that rules are meant to be broken. An interesting questions, though, is if they have same tolerance for when and how much is regarded as 'breaking rules'. The written comments found in the next chapter indicate different perspectives.
Figure 14: I feel comfortable with welldefined rules and practices?
The Mexicans feel much more comfortable with well-defined rules than Nordic people do.
Figure 15: I am happy with uncertainty and risk-taking?
Nordic respondents are more comfortable with uncertainty and risk-taking than Mexicans are.
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Figure 16: Rules are meant to be broken?
Neither Mexican nor Nordic people agree on the statement that rules are made to be broken. Although the amount of 'no' = highly disagree to the far left among the Nordics is much lower than the Mexican answers.
Figure 17: There should be no more rules than strictly necessary?
Nordic people - almost 70% feel that there should be no more rules than what is strictly necessary. Only 35% of the Mexicans agree that there should only be a minimum of rules.
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6. Written statements that qualify the data As a part of the survey, the surveyors were asked to provide written statements about the different sections of the survey, in order to promote a more detailed understanding of their viewpoints. Among other things, the surveyors were asked to provide written statements about the characteristics of both Mexican and Nordic workers in general. In this section, a brief summary of these descriptions will be presented. It is subject to both the words the respondents by random have chosen to use and to the extract that has been made from the many pages of text. ď‚ˇ
Statements about Mexicans Both Mexican and Nordics see Mexican workers as rule-followers, who respect authorities, and so, feel very comfortable with working in hierarchical organizations. This reflects what is concluded from the quantitative data.
Statements about the Nordics The Mexican and Nordics agree that Nordic workers are generally hard working, goal oriented and independent. The Mexicans also think that Nordic workers are strict and formal. Again these statements seem to be a good reflection of the quantitative data.
Figure 18: A simple text analysis with the most frequently used words in bold:
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Figure 19 - Mexicans about Mexicans General: Afraid of hierarchy Need constant follow-up Not always focus on their work Some quotes: “Not too attached to the rules and creative at work”. “Highly professional, but less sensitive to guidelines, punctuality and strict rules”. “… however Mexicans in global companies work until they have finished their work, no matter if you leave the office at 21:00hrs
Figure 20 - Nordics about Mexicans General: Flexibility in mind set. Willing to try new initiatives, challenges and development. Personal relations ships are important. Respectful towards authorities. Some quotes: “Bad at following through”. “More talkative during working hours, however longer working hours”. “… younger generation is eager to learn new things, willing to challenge ideas when giving the right environment…”.
“Priority is not the office” “Personal relationship is important”. “Friendly and a little disorganized”. “Difficult to get a personal opinion from before they see what direction is the wind blowing”.
Figure 21 - Nordics about Nordics
Figure 22 - Mexicans about Nordics
General: Result oriented
General: Very strict, formal and demanding.
Tend to believe that their way of doing things is the only way.
Try to get fast to the goal. Some quotes:
Some quotes: “Attached to the rules, norms and timing”. “Very efficient, with high regard for planning and structure.”
“Easy adaptors and good to follow through” “Less talkative during working hours, however shorter working hours”.
“Nordics close the door at 16:58hrs and after that you cannot expect any extra effort, no matter if they did not finish their work…Summer put them out of this world, but the world continues spinning…”
“…To some extend harder to implement new initiatives in Denmark…”.
“Not so warm at work”
“Business is strictly professional”.
“Very respectful but not very cheerful” “… sometimes sarcastic”. “A bit Naive, assume people will do things just because they are being told”. “Intelligent but with a square mind”.
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7. Stereotypes - 'Is it a challenge that….?' We have asked the surveyors for their stereotypes of Mexicans and Nordics. This section has a fun and intended provoking character. It can however be useful by pointing out issues that are potentially problematic, or at least worth paying attention to in a corporation. It may be noted, that we actually didn't ask IF the various statements were true, but merely if they were causing a problem. Hence given correct responses from the respondents 'yes' will indicate that it's a problem and therefore also true, whereas 'no' could equally mean 'it's true but not a problem' or simply 'it's no problem because it's not true'.
Nordics are punctual – Mexicans are late Both groups agree that it is a challenge that Mexicans are often late. The Mexicans generally do not think that it is a challenge that the Nordics are punctual, whereas the Nordics actually to some degree see this as a challenge. So overall the Mexican and Nordics seem to have different standards of how important it is to be on time or even more important; what it means to be on time. This is obviously a potentially problematic difference that should be considered, when creating collaborations between Mexican and Nordic organisations. (Figures 23, 24)
Mexicans don't say 'NO'. Both Mexican and Nordics agree that it is a challenge that Mexicans are generally not very clear and assertive when they disagree with something/someone, and that they find it difficult to defend their point of view. In sum, the Mexicans are viewed as submissive and not good at saying no. (Figures 25, 26, 27)
Nordics think they are rude, but the real challenge is to give positive feed-back. The Nordics don’t think that it is a problem, that they are generally not interested in giving feedback and congratulating the team when accomplishing goals – the Mexicans on the other hand disagree, and see this as a challenge! The Nordics can appear rude when asking for things – the Nordics see this as a problem, whereas the Mexicans don’t. (Figures 28, 29)
Nordics think they understand Mexican culture - the Mexicans doubt it The Nordics don’t think, that it is a challenge that only Latins truly understand the meaning of “mañana” – the Mexicans on the other hand, think that it is a challenge. It seems that the Nordics think that they know the Mexican culture as well as their impact on it. But more importantly, it seems that the Mexicans don’t totally agree with the Nordics’ perceptions, but actually see things differently. (Figure 30)
Some stereotypes doesn't exist In three questions there are no real hit from the many respondents. The Mexicans think that Mexicans don't prioritize well, but the Nordics don't find it a problem. The Nordics think it's some kind of a challenge that Nordics like improvise while working, but the Mexicans don't find it a challenge. Finally neither Mexicans nor Nordics find it a challenge that Nordics in democratic fashion treats everybody equal OR they don't really recognise the behaviour at all. (Figures 31, 32, 33). 22 Copyright Human House A/S
Results from the survey Understanding the graphs All questions have been asked with the beginning: 'Is it a challenge that..?' The percentages on the graphs reaches from No challenge to Challenge and the three midst positions not labelled are indicating 'tendency to no challenge', 'neutral' and 'tendency to challenge'. Figures 23 â€“ 33 on Stereotypes - Is it a challenge thatâ€Ś..:
Figure 23: Mexicans are often late?
Figure 24: Nordics are extremely punctual?
Figure 25: The cultural differences among the different socio-economical classes in Mexico are huge?
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Figure 26: Mexicans are not very clear and assertive when they disagree?
Figure 27: Mexicans find it difficult to complain and defend their point of view?
Figure 28: Nordics are not so much into giving feedback or congratulate the team when accomplishing goals?
Figure 29: The Nordics can appear rude in the way they ask for things?
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Figure 30: Only Mexicans and other Latins truly understand the meaning of “mañana” or “ahorita”?
Figure 31: Mexicans are generally not very good at prioritizing their tasks?
Nordics like to improvise while working?
Nordic people treat everybody in the same way?
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E. Recommendations from Human House 1. Considerations when working internationally There is more than one correct way to do things, but there is also a number of wrong ways to do them. For any organisation working on a domestic or international level the basic advice should always be, 'whatever you do; do it consciously'! Internationally there is not one right way to do things, so you will have to make up a lot of decisions and choices and most probably compromise on several issues and learn by doing. On the other hand the fact that there is more than one right way to do things doesn't mean that all choices could be equally good. There are many wrong ways to do things. If it can be combined to do things with a conscious determination and at the same time avoiding the most obvious pitfalls it is not a bad starting point. Going international requires the same managerial and organisational skills as running a domestic business but in addition to these the complexity is multiplied with factors of different regional and organisational culture, different business environments, practical and logistical issues of geographical distances and time zones. Control and alignment is more difficult and 'business as usual' is not an option. For each new region with a subsidiary a new set of decisions and challenges arises and a number of conscious decisions have to be made.
2. Culture on three levels - region, organisation, individual Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Business school analysis, business strategies including strategic human resource plans doesn't stand a chance if they don't take culture into consideration. Culture in a company can be analysed, described and developed on three levels: - National and regional level - Organisational level - Individual level The national and regional level can normally not be changed and developed by a company, but will represent an environmental factor to be part of the planning process. Especially understanding and taking advantage of the typical business culture in a region can be a strategic winning point.
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The organisational level represents the company's existing and desired overall culture and the subcultures in departments and branches. These kinds of cultures can be analysed and described very precisely and development plans for changing and improving the organisations culture and subcultures can be drafted and implemented quite easily. The individual culture represents the type of persons in the company. Values and preferences in work style, leadership style, communication and decision making varies from company to company, but most organisations tend to build up a special population as their kind of people. A number of tools and methods can describe and suggest development plans for teams and persons even to the extent of suggesting a recruiting policy. It is highly recommended that all companies analysis the three levels of culture and consciously choses a development plan for the organisation. Including how to align actions between subsidiaries and how to secure the value chain and project lines between the people of the organisation on different levels and sites around the world. The traditional approach in mergers, acquisitions and international expansion of the company is naturally to secure IT-systems, legal matters and the value chain. A parallel investment in intercultural alignment can secure a much higher return on investment.
3. Coordinating and managing - time zones, virtual teams, out posting, lines of command Most organisational theories and organogram are still based on a world 200 years ago. When organisational theory was invented most experience came from military and religious organisations with clear lines of command. Matrix and project organisations have been applied since to compensate for a growing complexity and new needs, but basically a lot of thinking around organisations is rooted in physical presence of boss and employees and easy access. Instead of applying features to the old organisational diagrams and thinking a new worldwide organisation deserves a new planning process. Starting from the intercultural knowledge about how people would like to cooperate and what to achieve, and then adding the possibilities of technology before deciding how to go about it practically. An example is the everyday question about creating a team feeling in the globally divided team. The manager is in one country and the members of the team in one or more other countries. The answer might very well be that you don't need to create a team feeling. It's traditional thinking. In best of cases you will get a very frail result and a lot of travelling to obtain it, so it could be more efficient to look at structures of cooperation, traditions and means of communication and management structures. We recommend an efficiency check on the global management structure and human resource system including lines of command, team structure, time zones, email policies etc. Traditional LEAN analysis and value chain planning tends to focus on the product and the operations and could benefit from putting extra focus on the rest of the setup of daily contacts, second line communications etc. 27 Copyright Human House A/S
4. Practically analysing the regional and national differences - focus on Mexico If you want to analyse the differences in the work place culture in the Nordic area and in Mexico and want to get some inspiration for further improvement in how you adapt to these differences useful ideas can be obtained from these models and schemes. We know as a fact that updated surveys and on-going individual test-results gives highly different scores for professionals in the Nordic countries and in Mexico. The results are not from the population in general but only from managers and professionals in business and organisations. Thus the data are representing exactly the same group of people as the Human House survey has approached. Feel free to contact us for more information on the models. This illustration shows that on all five factors used to measure cultural differences at the work place there are significant differences between the two regions. To simplify the illustration only the Danish flag has been used, but the Nordic countries are all placed very close to each other on the scales only with a few minor variations. Source: Human House and ITAP International, Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire 2, in cooperation with Geert Hofstede Company.
Building an organisation gives under these circumstances a string of challenges: The red and green figures relate to the intercultural differences. Red number '1' represents the typical workplace cultural approach preferred by the Nordics. Green number '2' represents the typical workplace cultural approach preferred by the Mexicans.
So what is chosen?
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Extract from typical differences in values and norms on workplace cultures in respectively Mexican and Nordic type of countries.
- group style, - hierarchy - needs certainty - masculine work style - short term time orientation
- individual style - democratic - low need for certainty - feminine work style - middle term time orientation
Technology, structure, HR
Technology, structure, HR
Distinction between experts and laymen, between important and unimportant functions and right and wrong way.
Varied methods of production and many functions. Dislike standardization.
Standardize and formalize procedures to avoid risk. Focus on delivering on time in expected quality. Adapt existing methods to temporary needs. Coordination and decision-making at the top. Employees mostly just do as they are told.
Process focus. Developing new methods Decentred decision-making, individual autonomy, responsibility and recognition and tend to require formalised coordination Favour collaboration, teamwork and longlasting relations.
Explicit and transparent division of labour. Results visible to all and foster competition. Often isolated departments that might operate independently and even in separate directions. Differences in compensation and rewards and differential treatment in general.
Prefer individualized career paths and development plans and individual recognition and bonuses. Invest much in training and development, have social and benefits maternity and paternity leave, sabbaticals, health insurance, fitness, etc.
Clear-cut and predictable career paths. HR systems with performance evaluations systems, up-or-out promotion, elaborate incentive schemes, high employee turnover rate.
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5. Analysing the organisational culture Business and company culture must fit Adding the company culture can make inter cultural alignment more or less easy to obtain. Competing Values Framework by Cameron and Quinn is an intuitive and most illustrative way to describe the culture of an organisation. Focusing on the fact that it's impossible to be everything at the same time the model narrows the basic questions of organisational values down to two questions Flexible or Stabile, External or Internal focus.
All organisations want to achieve and full fill their mission but different history, different products, different markets and different people ends up creating different beliefs and values and organisational cultures. The model and methods behind are far more complex and sophisticated than indicated in the figures on this page, but for a short cut to understanding the picture can an analysis of the culture end up and clarify in which mixture an organisation is blended of the four stereotypes - Clan, Adhocracy, Market, Hierarchy. Theoretically it can be 100% of one of them or 25% of each. Practically it will be a more mixed picture but often with a clear tendency. Two examples below are illustrating an organisation with a clear external focus - equally divided between structure and creativity - and an organisation clearly dominated by hierarchy.
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It goes without saying that if the two examples are branches within the same company and they have to cooperate close then we can foresee some challenges and what is better; we probably also can make a viable roadmap for the cooperation. National work place culture varies very much, and organisational culture varies also inside the company from department to department and on top of this individual culture varies from person to person. Decisions on norms, procedures, marketing approach, production lines and leadership styles have to take all these factors into account. Competing Values Framework is one of the most operational and practical methods of analysing and developing the company culture. It can be used in small and big companies and is very useful when it comes to explaining and communicating decision and managerial roadmaps. Feel free to contact us for examples and ideas.
6. The trip goes to Mexico - some additional considerations from the survey In connection with the headlines from the main survey five themes of interesting discussions stand out from analysis, data, interviews and meetings. Individual managers - especially from headquarters - claim that these questions have been taken into account and that a conscious decision has been made. However either it is hasn't been communicated or there still remain some disagreement. Is equalized necessarily good or is it just what happened? The workplace culture seemed to be equalized in the Mexican subsidiaries and in most situation equalized to be more Nordic than Mexican. Has this been done on purpose and is it efficient. Some results from the survey indicate that it may not be the case. Does equalization help you to work better? Could it challenge your efficiency? Does equalization create a barrier for you to take advantage of diversity and a multicultural environment? Expectations around delegation, supervision and following up are unclear! Basically some communication is needed. From each side of the Atlantic stereotypes exist on the issue of responsibility. Is delegation a way of not taking responsibility, seen from Mexico? Is need for support and supervision a way of not taking responsibility, seen from the Nordic region? Some would like to have, some don’t like to give. Some expects clear reactions including 'no', and some expects more subtle messages to be understood. Liking each other and being efficient across the Atlantic Having positive relationships with co-workers and management across the cultural borders is mentioned several times as desirable and also as the factual situation. As per the written statements Nordics and Mexicans seems to harmonize well on the interpersonal level, but 31 Copyright Human House A/S
consultancy experience shows that it is not necessarily related to higher efficiency and better performance. Friendship is sometimes confused with efficiency, but friendship is not the same as not having intercultural challenges. Are the cooperating cultures able to challenge each other in a way understandable and viable for both sides or do one or both sides protect the relationship? Is the teamwork style both nice and as productive as possible? Do people like each other because they are polite or because they truly understand each other and can manage conflicts? To Tropicalize or not, that’s the question! It's evident that a company must be aware of the cultural context in which it operates, in order to be able to implement HQ rules and procedures, while at the same time maintaining high quality and keep up to international standards. It appears that the decision on strategy in this matter creates some frustrations and disagreement on strategy. Do Mexicans really understand why HQ wants to standardize procedures? Have the procedures been analysed, and are these procedures making the company more efficient? Has it been told very clearly and loud to the HQ if there are qualified suggestions and concerns from the Mexican side? Has HQ asked? Even though Mexican managers have the ability and international experience to bridge across the intercultural communication barrier they face difficulties in 'translating' policies and procedures to employees and customers. Organisation During interviews some Mexicans questions the wisdom in choosing local managers to run the organisation in Mexico. Not all but many Nordic companies choose to have a local manager. Especially if Nordic companies like to delegate and don't want to be burdened with too much communication and follow up some of the Mexicans find it advisable to outpost more Nordics. Typical Nordic staff policies concerning i.e. stress, work/life balance and job development are also questioned as being not necessarily wise in Mexico or at least not wise in the way they have been implemented. Leaving as an example these questions:
Local manager or out-posted? Same company policies including HR in Mexico and the Nordic area? How does the company provide the right level of structure vs. flexibility for both Mexican and Nordic employees?
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Jan Hyttel +45 4074 1539 email@example.com Human House A/S Rosenkrantzgade 19B DK – 8000 Aarhus C
Cecilia Hubard +45 2076 6166 firstname.lastname@example.org Human House A/S Havnegade 39 DK-1058 Copenhagen K
Hugette Cervantes +52 155 1384 1288 email@example.com Human House A/S Río Niágara 38 – 401 Col. Cuauhtémoc 06500 México D.F. (52 55) 5207 2490
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Cooperation between Nordic companies and their Mexican subsidiaries. Cultural differences, efficiency, communication and managerial challen...