Marconi case shows us how many different aspects of managerial situation in a company must be considered and handled, whenever and changes in the company structure, relocation of the staff, entering foreign markets and all the problems connected with above occur. Sending the managers to another country cannot be just a simple one-task operation. It’s a long lasting process that needs commitment and sacrifices from both sides – company and managers. Any lack of preparation may cause serious problems. In the Marconi case we can follow all the stages of preparation, actual placing managers at the company and further issues in foreign country. Even not trying to evaluate whether the entire process was conducted properly, just simply looking closer at all the matters – one can learn from their Mexican experience.
Perhaps trying to place ourselves in the Marconi’s shoes we could try to find a few better solutions or work out how to avoid certain failures. In the first place I really liked the idea of sending managers to foreign countries to work for a company where Marconi held a minority interest. They could learn how does the firm work, only through observation they could learn how to exist in a new environment and gain the experience in foreign country. Just like the group that was sent to evaluate the facts and figures. So, selection of these managers for Mexico’s Lerida seem to be quite reasonable solution. They have managed to gain experience in one of Latin America country so they probably speak Spanish fluently, they wouldn’t experience cultural shock and it would be much easier for them to adapt.
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What could be done more – the additional few people from HR department could be sent as well to look closer into the co. structure, how does it work, what are the relationships between employees and the management, they could be delegated there to learn something about the co. culture, unwritten rules and the whole background. Secondly few changes could be done to the process of choosing future managers for overseas assignment.
People from outside the company and from universities got limited experience but were able to work almost everywhere, in the contrary managers spotted within the co. had all the skills requirement but weren’t’ flexible and usually couldn’t function in Latin America environment. Apart from that the “traditional managers” ranged in age from 46 to 65 (average age a proximately 54 years) and they had no international experience. They were selected because of their technical skills, but they didn’t speak Spanish and their ability to learn foreign language at their age was probably very low. The same problems concerned their families, their spouses were probably also in their 50 s or 60 s, so it was very difficult for them to adapt to the new conditions, understand foreign culture as well as to make new friends. The preparation process took place in Canada, in Canadian reality and surrounding they all knew.
All the talks, group projects were conducted in Canadian “circumstances.” They seemed to forget that those people must be able to operate in a foreign country where almost everything is different, and that they couldn’t just say “no today I won’t finish it perhaps I will come back to it tomorrow after spending time with my friends in my favourite pub.” They weren’t given the possibility to check whether they would be able to do exactly the same tasks but not in the environment they know. They should be sent to Mexico for the whole simulations and there made to work under pressure, so as to find out how their future work is going to look like. From my point of view Marconi should have selected more young managers with Latin America background or international experience gained in the companies in which Marconi had minority interests. Apart from that, if they anticipated in 1990 Latin America expansion and they purchased Lerida Telecom in 1997 they had 7 years to prepare and that time could have been used in better way. Finally, in situation when they had to send 14 managers abroad to manage new acquisition, they had to select 6 people with no international experience (! ).
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They either should have started their preparation several years earlier or maybe should have hired more graduates with Latin America background.
It shouldn’t have been a problem especially in US where in the south there are plenty of people like that. Such young Mexicans or Latin American graduates would speak English as well as Spanish, and they could be transferred to headquarters in Canada where they could learn company’s core business. As there is no big differences in life or work conditions between Canada and US there shouldn’t be problem with such transfers. Another thing that should be considered and perhaps changed was the vision the managers were provided with: higher earnings, package benefits, additional perks, help, services, finance, housing, schools. All that was shown as an ideal, and already prepared. The managers and their families were taken to Mexico for kind of a trip – they were staying in hotels with English speaking staff, they were visiting places with an English speaking guide, who took care of them.
They didn’t probably have to use public transport or even pay bills or order meals by themselves. They couldn’t really see what does the life really look like. On site support this time wasn’t given, as it was in the past. It would be the most efficient preparation and lesson about another country if the future newcomers were contacted with native Mexicans – managers from Lerida Co. They could ask questions, and all their queries should be answered. They would have the filling that there is someone who they can rely on, who they can ask about anything and will find he helping hand, simply someone who knows the reality from inside out.
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If no even managers could help their future colleges, that could be the subordinates. Additional benefit in that case would be a gradually build relationship between future staff and future boss. Another tough question that company should answer before sending their managers overseas: what will happen when the overseas assignment is finished? This time it would be advisable to ensure the managers that they would be given the possibility to come back to the company after coming back from Mexico. That they won’t be treated just like an unnecessary, additional staff that the company wants to get rid of and that the reintegration would be possible. That would help managers and let them feel a little bit more secure before leaving.
The company however could not provide the same assurance for the spouses. Their job was lost, as well as the second income in the family. Instead they faced the problem of an enormous amount of free time, which they didn’t know what to do with. They couldn’t usually work again in the same branches in Mexico, were not even able to as a volunteer. They were left without any possible choice and alternative of what to do with they free time.
Having a career, full time employment now they turned into a kind of unemployed without any perspectives – that had a very bad impact not only on spouses, who became frustrated and depressed, but also, not directly, the unhappiness in the family affected the managers performance. And according to the survey conducted by R. L Tung (Selection and Training Procedures of U. S. , European and Japanese Multinationals”; California Management Review 25; 1982) the inability of spouse to adjust and other family problems were main reasons for exaptriates failures in U. S companies.
Nevertheless what the Co. could have done was to provide the spouses with proper immigration status, so that they were able to work in Mexico. They would have more opportunities to meet, contact people which would make the process of adaptation much easier and what more they would have opportunity to develop their own career instead of seeing isolated in closed residences. Perhaps they should find some people who would be able to answer all the family members’ questions. How to adopt, what to do? What to expect? What to do with the spare time? How to prepare? Where to work? Would be also a good idea. Even helping them to contact the families of Lerida’s managers to ask all those questions.
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Instead of this kind of useful information and advices they were given just one day seminar which didn’t help at all and which was regarded by majority as a lost of time. If the company wanted to give the seminars there should be not one meeting but one every week. To give the managers the opportunity to ask questions. Not once but several times. Every day more and more queries arose and they would be able given the answer that couldn’t be found in the Internet or during the meeting in the Embassy.
Another huge problem seemed to be the language. One of the employees claimed that the best time to start learning language was when they said, “yes” for going abroad. Learning Spanish was just an option while it should be an obligatory activity. Afterwards, when they had to learn the language in a very short time and in quote a stressful way they weren’t able to absorb as much.
This lack caused further problems; the managers couldn’t communicate with the employees that spoke only Spanish. They could never be sure whether the messages get through properly and if he was understood properly. Frustration grew even higher when the key subordinate spoke only Spanish and the manager had to use an interpreter to achieve what was needed. It could be good for the beginning, but afterwards even the expectations of the employees changed. What was understandable at the very beginning, later started to make the Mexicans impatient. No one can wonder that they expected their bosses to speak Spanish after a year and communicate with them in a normal way.
Seeing no change they become reserved. Which made the situation even worse. Managers themselves also noticed that they lost something that they found really substantial when working in Canada – ability to communicate with people. Here the lack of that caused frustration; not only in terms of company but also in the everyday life. What could be done? The process of choosing candidates could be changed – only the people fluent in Spanish language would be appointed. Other possible solution was to start the intensive courses as soon as the co.
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knew that such skills would be needed. It would be also helpful for the spouses if they were give the possibility to attend additional Spanish courses. Not knowing the language they couldn’t build a relationship with the Mexicans, anywhere outside the company. No matter where they lived – in safe district, or in the city suburbs, they always felt like the aliens, minority that couldn’t adapt to new culture and place. They felt separated and isolated. To deal with that co.
could organise some meetings with other companies, with city officials, authorities. However still the main problem was the language barrier, culture and tradition constraints – that could be solved before they left Canada – during the seminars, the Mexican lecturers could also mention the culture differences, typical behaviour, give some guidelines of how to deal with your neighbours and how to make them your friends. Not only language seemed to be the problems for the Canadians, but also the everyday life. Mexico with its pollution and crime problems is not an easy place to life in. Usually they didn’t know what to expect and how to prepare. They got quite high expectations which, when confronted with the reality brought only disappointment.
That also could be handled – during the seminars, or short trips to Mexico. It could be wise to show the managers ant their families not only the bright side but also what the Mexican reality is like – armed guards, different security issues, how to deal with something that is more or less normal in that country. The managers seemed not to know anything about social problems in Mexico. Not knowing that they were mostly shocked right from the time of their arrival when made to face the everyday life. Once again -it would be useful to have someone who the get to know previously f ex. Via Internet – a friend who could help them and take care as they came.
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Personally I can’t find the solution for the security problems, as it wasn’t the company’s inadvertence. The changes in the economic situation and grooving crime level didn’t really depend on what the co. could do or prepare for. However when informed about the attempts of kidnapping, and the outcome of the survey (which revealed that the managers with private drivers didn’t experienced any forms of threat the company should provide everyone with personal driver.
Not differentiating – whether someone is of a lower or higher level management. The co. could also put a stronger emphasis on the security consultants’ issue. They could e helpful – giving advice to the managers and their families. As we could see in the case – the Merida failed to provide that. Another issue, the company couldn’t know about before, was a growing market competition.
New companies entering the Mexican market, growing demand for professionals and threat that the managers could be bought out by another organisation. That influenced the salaries and made the Marconi offer more additional benefits to its managers. Otherwise they could easily find work in any other co entering the Mexican market and offering better work conditions. Perhaps adjusting compensation package to the market’s average would be less expensive than lost of best people and facing the necessity of hiring or relocating new employees, providing them with training and bearing the costs of relocation. Not only rising the salaries, but also trying to motivate them in other way could help in that situation. The managers admitted that they like to work with challenges, with a feeling that quite a lot depends on them and their decisions.
They enjoyed being not only involved in the decision process, responsible for its implementation but also enabled to act as an important and inevitable part of the company. As they said this feeling was worth even more than any higher salaries. Providing them with more and more autonomy could be than the best incentive to keep them within the company, and make them even more involved. What can be done in the future is to improve all the stages of the development program. Starting from the managers’s election, through the learning and seminar program, and not terminating the support after the future managers get to a destination place. As I said at the very beginning it should be a long lasting, permanent process, evolving whenever any changes (f ex.
in the economic situation) appears. There could be also another option, which would prevent the company from all the problems mentioned above. Of course it could bring other issues to deal with, however in my opinion, it would make the whole transition easier, if all the managers sent to Mexico were Mexicans. The company could avoid language and culture shocks.
The managers from Mexico could be given a proper training in Canada. They could learn how the company works, what are the goals, what does the company expects from them, what they should try to implement in Mexico. They would know the reality and they would avoid all the issues connected with the adoption to the new environment. Nevertheless, we won’t be able to evaluate and estimate which option is better, until we try and examine both.