TEM Lab: Guatemala – IDB – Mineco
Its 8:00am Guatemala time and we are all sitting on the plane flying back to the USA. We have been up since 5:00am and I’m pretty sure each of us only slept 3 or 4 hours last night. This crazy schedule has been a bit of the norm for the past 5 weeks and if you know me well, you’d expect to see me chugging my third cup of coffee by now. Surprisingly, I am awake and full of energy and I haven’t even had my first sip of caffeine yet. I am excited! Excited to tell my fellow Tbirds, family, and friends about how this TEM Lab project has been such a rewarding learning experience both personally and professionally.
As I look back on our last week of the TEM Lab, I am reminded of the fact that every member of our team has “Achiever” listed as a top strength on their Strength’s Quest. Achiever’s start every day at zero ….every day …weekends included, vacations included…every day. If we don’t feel that we have accomplished a major milestone every day, then we do not feel fulfilled.
Given the high degree of uncertainty and short time period to accomplish our goals, this project was a candy shop of opportunities to exercise the inner achiever in all of us.
To give you an idea of what I am talking about, during our last week we pulled every aspect of our project together: we wrote our final report, presented recommendations and lessons learned to our client, hosted 2 dinners to say goodbye to the myriad of personal and professional relationships we developed, took a much needed vacation to the Caribbean coast, and even attended salsa lessons.
Despite the fact that we are all achievers, the most impressive aspect of our team is that we managed to develop relationships with not only our client, but also our driver and his family, the training participants, the staff at the training facility, the owner and staff at our apartment facility, and Thunderbird alumni.
The lessons I have learned from each of these relationships and working in Guatemala will stay with me for life. As we heard each person say over and over, “Tienes un amigo en Guatemala – You have a friend in Guatemala”… my response is: Guatemala! You have five friends for life in the United States, Hungary and Perú!”
For all of us achievers, go do a TEM Lab project! You will be surprised by how much you apply all that you have learned in your classes, and you will still be shocked by how much more you’ll grow professionally and personally.
So let’s return to my original question… are you an Achiever? If so, then a TEM Lab is for you!
I am from Peru and I have lived in and visited most of Latin America. This was my first time in Guatemala, and it really stood out amongst all other countries. Why? Because of its people – they are extremely welcoming and hospitable! After arriving, we were able to quickly build personal and working relationships. It was a valuable learning experience that I will never forget.
During our time here, our knowledge of how important social relationships are to doing business in Latin America was reinforced. Family and personal relationships are highly valued in Latin America, and, of course, there is a different approach to time. All of this carries over into the business environment.
When we first arrived to Guatemala City, we were not sure what awaited us. We had to put together the needs and wishes of three different groups: MINECO, IDB and the SMEs Intermediaries. We were able to build strong relationships with these groups and learn their communication styles. In Guatemala, as in the rest of Latin America, building those social relationships is necessary if you want to get things done, and… we made it happen!
During our time with MINECO representatives, we knew that building those relationships would be the turning point. We saw a big change in their behavior as we developed a stronger professional and personal relationship with them. In the first week we worked out of our apartment, but once we gained space in the MINECO office, we were able to talk to them regularly. As we got to know each other, communication became easier and more relaxed. The clients started joking with us, stopping by to say hi and to chit chat. We were finally able to speak the “same language.”
Throughout the following weeks of trainings and interactions with the entrepreneurs, we saw how thankful they were for all our hard work. They even asked for personal advice that they could apply to their careers and individual businesses, which was extremely rewarding.
As Prof. Roy Nelson taught us in RBE Latin America, when doing business in Latin countries, building social relationships is necessary. And it is true. Latin America will always be distinctly different from the rest of the world, and it will always have its difficulties. But its people and their focus on personal relationships is what makes the difference! It is what makes it so special!
All of our team agreed in something: We love the Latino culture and its passion for family, friends, and personal connection. I am happy to say that I made many amazing friends in Guatemala and I encourage everyone to go, connect with the people, and make it happen!
In my undergraduate university in order to graduate we had to pass a final exam that measured how much we learned in all of the courses we took throughout our entire undergrad program. That was 5 years of classes. If we had such a final exam at Thunderbird, this Tem Lab project would be it. All of our prep-work, interviews with intermediaries, meetings with clients, and research…All came together …
In reflecting on how much we have accomplished, I am reminded of that student joke:
How long does it take a grad student to learn Chinese? Answer: Why? When is the exam?
Well our “exam” was in 2.5 days from when we started working on it. In 2.5 days we put together a 140 pages training manual with 18 well-structured session plans IN SPANISH!
The written part of our final exam was the training manual for the trainers of small and medium sized businesses in Guatemala. Then came the oral exam: the actual training. 38 trainers and the MINECO staff were our strict judges on our knowledge in Global Enterprise, Global Accounting, Global Marketing, Global Finance, Cross Cultural Communication, and Global Leadership. I could list the entire Thunderbird curricula.
So how did we do after only a few hours of rehearsal and little sleep?
Well this is just another Thunder Success Story: we got an excellent feedback from the participants and MINECO staff. The trainers are eager to start using our manuals. And so we are ready for round two and three next week.
THANK YOU THUNDERBIRD FACULTY for giving us the opportunity to learn AND share knowledge.
Today is Sunday February 20th, 2011 and it is our teams first real day off in Guatemala. Yes, we worked on our trip to Tikal…We just finished our first full week of “training trainers.” So, I am writing this blog to publically acknowledge and thank all of my TEM Lab Teammates for their hard work and dedication. We have all worked really well together and have put together an amazing project. There is no way we could have done this without working well as a team. I can only hope to remain great friends with all of you and wish you the best of luck in your endeavors upon completing your MBA at Thunderbird.
As I look back, I cannot believe the amount of work we have accomplished in only 3 weeks. This past work week each team member averaged around 76 billable hours. Let’s take a look back at what we have accomplished…
Remember…all of this is in Spanish…
In the past 3 weeks:
- Conducted around 20 Meetings with our client and intermediaries to flesh out their needs and how we can specifically provide help.
- Completed the updated Project Synopsis & Work Plan, which were the signed off by the Vice Minister of Economy.
- Built and Finalized the Training Topics, Training Schedules, Lesson Plans, Curriculum, Methodology, & Brochure for advertising the training sessions.
- Designed the 140 page Training Manual and 26 Page Business Plan Template. The Training Manual will be distributed to all of the trainers participating in our training sessions. They will then use the manual to train Micro, Small, and Medium sized enterprises throughout the country of Guatemala. It covers close to 30 topics in the areas of: Business Creation, Global Sales & Marketing, Exporting, Management & Leadership, Finance, & Accounting. The Business Plan Template is designed to be filled out during each section of our training. At the end of the training each participant will have a fully developed business plan ready to be implemented immediately.
- Designed the Participation Certificate to be handed out after the participants complete the training.
- Successfully completed the first round of training sessions.
Let’s keep up the great work and remember…We have the amazing opportunity to live each day in Guatemala under the Thunderbird Oath of Honor:
As a Thunderbird and a global citizen, I promise:
I will strive to act with honesty and integrity,
I will respect the rights and dignity of all people,
I will strive to create sustainable prosperity worldwide,
I will oppose all forms of corruption and exploitation, and
I will take responsibility for my actions.
As I hold true to these principles, it is my hope that I may enjoy an honorable reputation and peace of conscience.
This pledge I make freely and upon my honor.
The Mayas, despite the fact that the civilization reached its apogee over 1000 years ago, were known to be keen astronomers, architects, engineers, and traders. They were highly resourceful, using materials found in nature to achieve many amazing feats. During our visit to Tikal, the pre-Columbian urban center of the Mayan civilization, we were able to understand how even today, Guatemalans are highly resourceful and have an amazing entrepreneurial spirit.
After a nearly 60 hour work week, we woke up Saturday morning at 4:30am and after boarding a 12-seater plane, flew 45 minutes through turbulence that would put to the test the stomach of even an avid coaster rider. After a shaky landing and a sigh of relief, we arrived at the city of Flores in the northern region of Petén. From there our tour guide Henry was waiting to pick us up and take us to Tikal, but not before first stopping to have a delicious traditional breakfast of fried eggs, tortillas, local cheese, refried beans, fried plantains, and of course a cup of Guatemalan coffee. Re-energized from the local meal, we ventured onward to the capital of the Mayan civilization.
The park itself is enormous; after entering, we drove another 10 kilometers until arriving at the main parking area. Henry began his tour by taking us through winding jungle trails and explaining the plant, insect, and animal life that thrives in this protected area. The vegetation was so thick that it was difficult to see more than a few feet off the trail. Our first view of the Mayan ruins was at an old living space. The building was two stories tall and had just enough room for someone to sleep. However, as most of their daily activities were done outside, there was no need for large indoor living spaces.
As we walked onward, we noticed that many buildings have not even been explored yet. Most of them were covered with thick jungle brush and looked like small hills to the naked eye, but Henry informed us that more than 80% of the structures in Tikal have yet to be uncovered. As we came around the next corner we noticed an incredibly steep building that towered over the forest canopy: Temple V. To climb this temple, we needed to ascend what was like a make-shift ladder that was built almost vertically. From there we could see the various temples that constituted Tikal and we gazed down on the jungle canopy as howler monkeys bellowed at the tourists on the ground trying to take pictures.
After gazing upon and even climbing in many different temples and hearing stories from our tour guide Henry, we arrived at Temple IV, which stands at 67 meters tall and is the highest Mayan temple ever built. Temple IV is currently still being uncovered by scientists and is in its last two years of a 10 year restoration project. After greeting a family of pizotes – a type of jungle raccoon – we took the stairs to the top of Temple IV and looked out towards the horizon. The sun was beginning to set and I reflected on the series of events in my life that caused me to be sitting there at that moment. I felt lucky.
On the way back to the car, Henry explained his disapproval of the hype surrounding December 21st, 2012 (some believe this to be the date of the end of the world, as the Mayan calendar completes its cycle on this day). However, Henry informed us that like many civilizations, the Mayas believed in cycles throughout the history of mankind. He explained that the locals believe that like any calendar, December 21st, 2012 represents the beginning of new era in time (The Mayas call this upcoming cycle “The Sixth Sun”).
As we returned to Flores, we arrived at our hotel which was located on a small island on a freshwater lake. We enjoyed an evening of good food and karaoke and spent the following day walking around town and getting to know the locals. It was a wonderful weekend full of mystique, enjoyment, and most importantly relaxation, but as I reflect on this trip I feel a rejuvenated spirit and take pride in the opportunity to work with a country that has such a rich heritage and culture.
Ch’abej chik! (“Goodbye” in the K’iche language of the Mayan language family.)
We all know what transparency means, and if you have been following the news, then you are aware of how popular and important the topic of transparency currently is to governments around the world. Transparency has been a conscious theme for our TEM Lab team in Guatemala, especially since we are working with the Ministry of Economy. We all agreed that in order for our project to be a success, our client and intermediaries in Guatemala needed to work with us in a transparent way. But, let’s pause for a moment… did we forget to include someone else? What about us? Did we think about how we were going to work transparently?
Our client raised the point in so many words – and had the right to do so – that our team needed to put more effort into working transparently. We were so caught up with making sure that our client and other project stake holders were acting in accordance with our definition of transparency that we missed another important stakeholder of our project…ourselves. Our team forgot to consider our client’s definition of transparency and whether we were meeting it. Although we may all agree upon the definition of transparency, our expectations as to how to be transparent have proven exceedingly diverse. We thought that transparency meant to make sure that we communicate as much as possible with our client though progress updates and weekly meetings. For our client, having us work on a daily basis in their offices and having the opportunity to come chat with us at any given moment was really all that was needed.
This realization is the result of some major self reflecting across the team. The level of intensity from our first week to the second week of our TEM Lab project increased exponentially. Fortunately, the intensity of our second week is what has forced us to take a step back and reflect.
After 280 hours of prep-work, I knew that this project would push each member of our team to grow professionally and personally. Project management and implementation, negotiations, cross-cultural relationship building, leading people, and a cultural excursion to Mayan ruins are the experiences I imagined that we would reflect upon at the end of our 5 weeks in Guatemala…but not all in one week!
What will the next three weeks teach us?
Ready to work hard and meet our high expectations, we confidently kicked off our second week with a client meeting first thing Monday morning. The meeting was like any traditional work meeting that most of us are accustomed to: introductions and updates, then presentations, followed by Q &A and next steps. Of course, we enjoyed the fluidity of Latin American time leading us into a four hour meeting. I must admit that I left this meeting feeling content that all our prep work was paying off and the project was falling into place. Contributing to my delight was that our client was in agreement with our work plan for the next six weeks, our proposed training agenda, methodology, and most importantly, our working relationship.
That was until Tuesday afternoon…
Still excited from the Monday morning meeting, our team was eager to meet with our client’s trainers on Tuesday afternoon and to dive into exchanging ideas on our lesson plans. However, when we arrived, the room was filled with an unexpected tension and nervousness. Little did we know, we were about to experience hours of negotiations on all that we agreed to the day before. An influence unbeknownst to us had trickled down the hierarchy of the governmental department we are working with, causing our client to completely reassess our training methodology.
Once the meeting started, we quickly realized our agenda was tossed, and our team was suddenly thrown into negotiations on our work plan and training activities. Negotiations were so intense that both teams had to take a break to discuss options to propose to each other. We started at 2pm and by 6:30pm we had reached an agreement. Given the commitment of our client to our project and both teams flexibility and desire to work together, we successfully negotiated a training schedule that was a win-win situation. Although we had come to a great decision, we were exhausted. In one day, we had experienced a complete 180 and we all left the meeting feeling a bit uneasy and frustrated with each other. So much so, that we agreed to no “work” talk on the 30 minute ride home during Guatemala’s rush hour…Throughout the rest week, we had several team meetings reflecting about Tuesday’s meeting and why we were frustrated even though we had an amazing educational experience -negotiating with a team of the Guatemalan government. It turned out that many of us had different ideas not only on how to diplomatically negotiate, but also on how flexible we should be internally. We didn’t even realize that this needed to be defined or that it could cause conflict internally with the team and potentially with our client. It was a big “Aha” moment!
That said, long and unexpected meetings are just how things go here. Decisions can change by the hour, so flexibility is crucial. Understanding our client’s system is imperative to managing the multiple relationships of our project here in Guatemala, and we must remind ourselves that our client is exposed to pressures outside of our knowledge. And just as importantly, we need to be more aware of our assumptions/preconceived notions amongst our team not just our client.
I haven’t taken Global Negotiations yet, but I think I just got a crash course in Guatemala.
…hard to remember these acronyms, especially what they stand for, who are the people behind them, and it’s even harder to stay on top of the schedule. We’ve had meetings after meetings with the representatives of eight industry associations, with IDB and with MINECO. No wonder that by 2pm on Friday we were all exhausted and were completely perplexed on what to do when two meetings came up for the same time.
This week we realized the power and importance of personal meetings. Some associations despite our constant calls and e-mails did not seem to be eager to communicate with us. However once on the ground and popping up in their offices, they were welcoming us with wide-open arms. I can proudly state that we built great relationship with all of them, but what is even a greater success that we managed to bring different actors together at a table and get them to start a forward-looking communication.
By the end of the week we had a wonderful learning experience when we had to face a text book example of resistance. It was very challenging but at the same time sooo exciting! Like a Nascar driver not knowing the curves ahead, but yet taking those curves very well and maintaining the speed. I had to admit that I was sweating a bit, but we did take the curves well, and managed to come out of the meeting achieving our needs – while the other party got what they wanted as well. And that’s where we are now…armed with a consultant’s experience ready for the coming weeks’ challenges.
It is a well documented fact that the public and private sectors in Guatemala have not maintained the most fruitful relationship. The Thunderbird TEM Lab Consulting Team is working to change this. One of our goals is to help bring the public and private sectors together to provide assistance to micro, small, and medium sized enterprises though an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan. We are accomplishing this by building relationships on both sides, bridging the gap, and ultimately providing training to trainers of the targeted businesses and entrepreneurs.
Several months before we arrived in Guatemala our team began fostering relationships with the Guatemalan Ministry of Economy (MINECO) and the private sector intermediaries. Once on the ground we could see in our meetings that we had already built a lot of trust with the private sector intermediaries. MINECO wanted to provide a presentation on the Component 4 loan and sent out invitations to each intermediary. We took the opportunity during our follow-up meetings to help promote the presentation. Our relationship building paid off when the various actors sat down to discuss Component 4 of the IDB loan. MINECO provided a presentation of the loan program, formally introduced the IDB representative responsible for the loan, the TEM Lab team, Professor Finney, and then opened the meeting up to discussion.
The main topics of discussion were transparency, accountability, and reduced bureaucracy. The private sector intermediaries were extremely enthusiastic about the loan program, but there was also still a limited manifestation of mistrust. MINECO understood and immediately addressed the intermediaries concerns. They answered each question and concern with great diplomacy and provided almost an open door policy to each intermediary. MINECO is willing to meet personally to discuss the loan in greater depth, listen to the feedback of the intermediaries, and provide more detailed information to anyone needing clarification. We could see that MINECO representatives understand the importance of this loan and the relationship with the private sector.
Later that night, the IDB representative told the TEM Lab team that this meeting was one of the greatest accomplishments to date on the Component 4 loan program. This is why I came to Thunderbird. An opportunity like this TEM Lab could only come from a Thunderbird program.
The TEM Lab team would like to thank MINECO, all of the private sector intermediaries, Alejandra Eguiluz, and Professor Michael Finney for their attendance and participation during this meeting.