10 videos. Total 3 min.
“They don’t listen.” Communication
Communication is the spoken and the written word. Face-to-face. In meetings. By telephone. In telecons. Emails. Written reports. Formal and informal presentations. Important documents. Within the company. With suppliers. And with customers.
Communication is words, the thinking behind them, their form and their spirit. Wait! Germans and Americans communicate differently. If that communication does not work, not much else will.
“They always say no.” Agreements
Agreements are like the air we breathe. Human interaction involves agreements. They are discussed, entered into, maintained and fulfilled. When colleagues collaborate, they enter into agreements. Many agreements. On a daily basis. Most are simple and routine. Others are complex and situation-based. Some agreements are linked with still other agreements.
Americans and Germans, however, handle agreements differently. If they don’t understand those differences, their agreements will break down.
“Boring academics.” Persuasion
There is no action without making a decision to act. There is no decision to act without considering the options to act. And there can be no consideration of options without presenting them. Present. Decide. Act.
When we present, we persuade. We want the receiver of our message to agree with it, to affirm it, to say “yes”. Collaboration is working together, acting together. But Germans and Americans persuade differently. Their logics do not fully align.
If they do not understand these differences, they will make suboptimal decisions.
“Paralysis by analysis” Decision Making
Decision-making is about what we will do, how we will do it, and why. But, it is also about how we make decisions. It’s about decision-making approaches, logics, methods, processes.
But, what if there is such a thing as a German logic to making decisions, such a thing as an American logic to making decisions? And what if those logics diverge, if they differ?
Can two national cultures – two national business cultures – collaborate effectively, if they are not aware of how they fundamentally make decisions, not aware of where they diverge in decision-making?
“They don’t lead” Leadership
Every team is made up of a team-lead and team-members. They interact. Personally. On a regular basis. Leadership is about that interaction. It is about the nature of that interaction.
Do Americans and Germans define effective leadership in the same way? Do they lead – and want to be led – in the same way? Where do the two business cultures draw the line between the what (meaning the strategy, the goal or objective) and the how (meaning the tactics, the path to that goal)?
When Germans and Americans collaborate they lead each other, and are being led by each other. If they don’t get that right, their teams will not reach their goals. They will fail.
“Negative. Destructive. Demotivating.” Feedback
Feedback is critical to the success of every individual, every team, and every company. Feedback is an attempt to stay in touch with reality, to develop a common understanding of that reality. We give and receive feedback on a constant basis: formally in company-internal performance reviews.
But far more importantly in everyday interactions: between colleagues, with suppliers, with customers. Feedback, when it works, gives us a common understanding of “where we stand”, of “what the score is”, of what is going well and not so well.
German feedback and American feedback are not the same, though. The two cultures score differently. They communicate those scores differently. And they react to the scores differently.
If Americans and Germans don’t understand those differences, they cannot possibly win the game, any game.
“Avoid their responsiblity.” Conflict
Conflict is normal. It is everyday, common-place, unavoidable and healthy. Germans and Americans are two capable, proud, and strong-willed peoples. When they collaborate, they disagree over both big and small things.
Critical is that they resolve their disagreements. Resolve them in a way which helps them to move forward. Effective conflict resolution is transparent, fair and just.
Both societies are – for the most part – transparent, fair and just. But their approaches to resolving conflict are not the same. The danger is that the one culture’s approach can seem to the other culture as not transparent, fair and just.
And no organization can succeed – no collaboration can work – if conflicts go unresolved or when one side feels that they have been treated unjustly.
“Overengineering” Product Philosophy
A national culture’s product philosophy is what it defines as a good product, the characteristics of a good product, its character. Because there are differences between national cultures, there are differences between product philosophies.
If the American and the German product philosophies were the same, or similar, their products would look the same, or similar. They would have similar characteristics.
But, they do not the same, often not even similar. When Germans and Americans collaborate, they do so in order to produce a result, a product, a service, a solution, a concept, knowhow.
The better they understand the differences between their respective product philosophies, the better they can produce great results. Poor understanding, however, leads to poor results.
“Inflexible. Slavish.” Process Philosophy
Processes are the rules governing the inner workings of a company. Processes, whether formal or informal, whether documented or undocumented, describe how the work is done, how it should be done. They also make possible quality control. They coordinate complex, interrelated activities. Those who have the say about processes, have the say about how the work is done.
But what if Americans and Germans do not share a common understanding of what makes for an effective process? What if they differ in the role of processes, in how they are constructed and modified? What if the two cultures diverge in how they live processes day-to-day, project-for-project, when coordinating their work with suppliers and customers?
Germans and Americans who collaborate need to understand not only each other’s individual processes, but more importantly the thinking behind those processes, how they do the work. If they do not understand each others processes, the inner workings of the company – the machinery – grinds to a halt.
“They don’t serve the customer” Approach to Customer
Every individual, every team, and every company is part of a business ecosystem, is a participant in customer-supplier relationships. We receive something. An input. We add to it. Hopefully our contribution is valuable. We then pass it along.
These relationships typically are internal to the company. Very few of us have direct access to external customers or direct access to external suppliers.
But the approach a national culture takes to business relationships is the same whether they are internal or external to the company. And that approach is based on a logic shared by both the customer and the supplier. For in all business relationships we are either customer or supplier.
The question is, do Americans and Germans take the same approach? Does the American approach work with Germans, and does the German approach work with Americans?
If the logics are not the same, if they answer is no, and if German and American colleagues are not aware of the differences, they will damage critical business relationships in a very short period of time.