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5 Tips for Managing Mexicans

Many maquiladoras* and other facilities in Mexico are maturing into operations with greater complexity than just assembly plants.  More and more they are required to add extra value to the products they manufacture, demanding workers who have higher skills and take a higher level of responsibility for what they produce.

In the current market, where customers' requirements can change overnight, the biggest challenges are dexterity and accountability.  If you are managing Mexicans, it means that you need to get your team in shape!  

Here are some tips for keeping things running smoothly.

Make Communication Clear and Complete. It's important that instructions be absolutely clear and unambiguous.  But another important component to the communication is not just what you want your workers to do, but why.  If you take the time to explain your reasoning, they"ll learn your way of thinking.  It takes more time up front, but it's an investment: knowing why gives people more of a feeling of ownership and can help them be less reliant on you in the future.  

Hear the Mexican Perspective.  You can bring ideas and processes from another culture, but superimposing them on people with different assumptions and norms without adjustments rarely produces satisfactory results.  Because the Mexican society is very hierarchical in nature, Mexicans do expect decisions to come from the boss. But if these are rigid dictates, they may run into problems and be too afraid to tell you, leaving you to discover the difficulties only when crisis erupts. By encouraging your subordinates to give you the Mexican perspective, you can usually find a hybrid method that works better in Mexico, but still maintains the desired corporate output.

Manage the Time. A challenge for many coming from other cultures is dealing with the Mexican tendency to put things off - often referred as the "mañana syndrome."  By asking your workers to visually show you their progress, it gives you a chance to have a conversation not only about the status of the assignment, but also about how best to proceed. If something is due in two weeks, regularly ask them to physically show you their progress every few days.

Make the Consequences Clear.  Going back to Mayan times, lower echelons were kept in line by higher echelons demanding sacrifices if orders were not carried out.  Mexican managers sometimes reach back to this historical motivator by saying to their workers, "There will have to be sacrifices if this is not done correctly!"  For extra emphasis they may make a chopping motion with the edge of the right hand onto the palm of the left hand when they say "sacrifice" (sacrificio).

Put Responsibility on the Group.  Although Mexicans can be very individualistic, the group also plays a strong role in Mexican society.  Take advantage of this by making members of the group responsible for each other and making the potential sacrifice affect the entire group, not just the individual.

Your efforts in communication and mindful monitoring will pay off in the dexterity and accountability you need to keep your team ready to move fast and reliably.

by Diana Rowland, author Japanese Business: Terms of Engagement

* A factory which is allowed to imports materials and equipment duty and tariff free as long as its completed product is re-exported after assembly or production is finished.

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