Differences


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.