Book

I began writing this book in January 2009. It was completed in roughly six hundred and forty hours. It is based on my experiences supporting the post-merger integration of Westinghouse Power Corp. into Siemens, at that time the largest acquisition in the history of Siemens.

The twenty characters in the story are based on real people. Americans and Germans. We worked very closely together. For seven years, beginning in January 2000. Many of them have become close personal friends of mine.

I consider those seven years to be my training as a Meister, a master. And I consider the book to be a description of my Meisterstück, my masterpiece, the successful integration of Westinghouse into Siemens.

See the book at Amazon. Published in German only. Read the Chapter Philadelphia.

Cornelsen Publishing – Book Description

E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
A German multinational takes over an American competitor. Post-merger integration fails miserably. Operating separately, consolidating their financials at the holding level, business is stable. Then comes the worldwide economic downturn, threatening the very survival of the company. How to respond? Breakup or make a last attempt at joining forces. For the two CEOs, an American in Philadelphia, a German in Düsseldorf, it‘s clear. Integrate! After secret meetings in New York and Philadelphia, they bring together the company‘s top American and German from each of the ten key disciplines. Washington, D.C. Strategy workshop. Three days. The goal: to formulate an integration roadmap. But how to overcome the cultural differences? The CEOs have done their homework. An expert – Otto John – is asked to guide them through the labyrinth.

Book Reviews

Cornelsen Publishing
Zeitschrift Personalführung
Zeitschrift Organisationsentwicklung (ZOE)
German American Trade
SIETAR (pg. 12)

Reader Reviews

“Great book – very informative and not at all dry” – 5 of 5 Stars
The book explains very clearly how differently Americans and Germans tick. No wonder that misunderstandings are inevitable. A must for anyone working transatlantic. With the knowledge from the book, some cliffs can be circumnavigated.

“Informative, educational and still entertaining” – 5 of 5 Stars
All the problems, prejudices and situations presented in this book are real and understandable from my experience. John Magee makes it clear to us in a practical but still entertaining way that we do not really understand each other or that there is at least enormous potential for improvement in this communication. At the same time, it illustrates clearly how we can jointly increase this potential.

I could find all of my personal experiences in this book, and a few more. In some cases, my own interpretations were confirmed, but in most cases the missing explanations were delivered comprehensibly and comprehensively. All publications and courses on this subject known to me work with very exaggerated examples, trying to explain the differences via black-and-white representations. In my opinion, this often leads to the exaggerated and strongly generalized opinions. In this book, foundations are provided and the differences are more finely explained. I wish this book was available to me during my long-delegation in the United States. Certain problems could have been avoided.

I recommend this book highly to all employees of German companies who work with North American colleagues or business partners. Most likely you will see the other side immediately in a slightly different light. However, mirroring the two sides clearly helps to better assess one’s own behavior and the resulting consequences.

“Great for improving transatlantic cooperation!” – 4 of 5 Stars
Do Germans and Americans understand each other? My answer is: “only conditionally, because certain idiosyncrasies of each other are unknown.” However, the book helps a lot to recognize the hurdles and traps and to master or avoid them as much as possible.

Illustrating with the help of many examples, which are based on the realistic organizational structure of large companies and their management, John Magee works out the different thinking of the societies on both sides of the Atlantic very clearly, but also the great influence that people with their peculiarities and different characters on the success or failure of a merger can take. From my personal point of view – I was involved in a merger – the content, presentation and structure of the book express very well a great experience of the author in accompanying company mergers.

I recommend this book for anyone preparing or embarking on transatlantic collaboration. It will make a significant contribution to understanding the American mindset, avoiding misunderstandings, and having to make painful experiences themselves.

“Written based on reality” – 5 of 5 Stars
Are there actually cultural differences between Germany and the US that make transatlantic cooperation more difficult? For many, this is hard to imagine: German managers have grown up with Bonanza, Bob Dylan, Humphrey Bogart, Salinger and Kerouac, they have dealt with American culture since their childhood. And in their training they have been extensively engaged in various Harvard concepts and other doctrines of American management.

So it sounds rather heretical when John Magee asks ‘Do Germans and Americans understand each other?’ But in his book he disproves the common assumption that German-American cooperation in companies runs smoothly, using the example of a corporate merger in depth and detail.

Magee knows what he is talking about: For twenty years he has worked as a trainer and consultant in the field of German-American cooperation: first as a trainer for the renowned IFIM Institute for Intercultural Management, then as an employee of the CDU Parliamentary Group, then for Siemens, today as a freelance consultant.

He presents the sum of his experiences in this book, which not only captivates through the detailed description of intercultural differences, but is also very readable due to the embedding of these differences in a story.

Here, no abstract Do’s and Don’ts, no How-to lists, are presented, but instead the challenges are described in a comprehensible manner. German and American managers need to face these intercultural differences. They determine success or failure!

“Indispensable in all situations for Germans and Americans!” – 5 of 5 Stars
As a management consultant and corporate analyst, I often collaborate and Americans on intercultural issues. In the course of my almost twenty years of experience there have been many situations where joint projects did not succeed as planned; in almost all cases this was due to the lack of mutual understanding.

The question that John Magee asks in his book title, therefore, I can only answer with “mostly not”. And that makes it clear how valuable this book is, especially in practice.

While similar books on this topic theoretically highlight differences between European and US culture, John Magee provides practical information and advice that can be put into action immediately.

The many examples confirm how much experience Magee has with the subject. He is one of the few professionals who can really claim to be German-American or American-German. In many personal contacts with John he has repeatedly surprised me with his detailed knowledge of us Germans, insights which you can only have if you were born and raised in Germany.

In summary, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone working in the Germany-USA space, whether in a joint project, a joint-venture or in an M&A situation, where Germans and Americans suddenly have to work closely together.

And … it’s a pleasure to read John Magee’s writing style!

“A complex topic described by story-telling” – 5 of 5 Stars
As a ‘victim’ of a German-American company, I am looking for information and procedures in order to be able to operate successfully in this environment. Intercultural cooperation between Americans and Germans is not just learnable action such as Drama art, but based on intellectual understanding of the needs and social environment of the other party. 

For executives and employees of German-American companies, it is a clear competitive advantage to understand the cultural hardwiring of the other side, and to use as a competitive advantage in the daily struggle when serving customers.

John Otto Magee shows a top-down methodology to achieve this goal. The involvement of those in high-level leadership positions are vividly described by means of a fictional workshop. The interactions of the individual functions are well described. Unfortunately, the book is far too short to show all aspects of possible intercultural success factors of such a joint venture.

I very much like Magee’s story-telling. It is easy to read and is pleasantly different from instructive, partly know-it-all and bone-dry essays on similar topics. Good introduction to this rather complex topic!

“Hits the nail on the head” – 5 of 5 Stars
As a German living in the USA for many years and dealing    daily with business people from both sides of the Atlantic, I can only confirm the cultural differences between Germans and Americans described in this book.

I find it especially valuable to read about the differences in the leadership logics, which I was confronted with many years ago in the German military. Magee explains their complexity by comparing and contrasting the role of coaches two major sports: soccer and football.

The differences in the American and the German product philosophies, for example the relationship between quality and price, is spelled out very clearly and convincingly. And, of course, the differences in how the two peoples communicate is described perfectly.

I did not like the sometimes close focus on the specific problems of the manufacturing industry. Nor I am a fan of business novels or storytelling. But that is a question of the personal taste.

All in all a recommendable book for those who have to deal with the cultural obstacles of a German-American corporate merger.