“The German business culture is reluctant to commit to projects which have unknowns and are not guaranteed to succeed. The American business culture is under constant pressure to produce results. Americans can appear to be pushy, emotional and fiery. How can we reconcile the two approaches?”
Let’s consider this question from a high level, without going into the details. What are the questions within this question? I think they are the following:
The first is commitment. We know that Americans and Germans take different approaches to commitments. How they define them. How they decide whether to enter into them. If agreed to, how they maintain and fulfill them. What are those differences and how do they influence collaboration?
The second is risk, the two culture’s respective understanding of risk. Well, what are those differences and how can American and Germans get a common understanding of the risks involved in individual projects?
The third is pressure. More specifically, the pressure to produce results. In the U.S.: What results? In what form? How quantified? When are they expected? Can these be answered and explained to the German colleagues so that they understand the situation “on the ground” in the U.S.?
The fourth is about Americans coming across to Germans as “pushy, emotional and fiery.” Can the three topics above be so explained by the American colleagues such that their German colleagues will understand and be open to searching for ways to reconcile the two respective – and successful – approaches?
And let’s remember what the term reconcile means. Let’s go to MerriamWebster online: “1. to restore to friendship or harmony; 2. to make consistent or congruous; 3. to accept something as unpleasant; 4. to check against another for accuracy.”
Interestingly, each one of these four definitions applies the task at hand:
Get into harmony, into synch, with your German colleagues. In order to do that you need to constantly explain the logics operating in the U.S. Make your responses to customers consistent with both the American and the German approaches, in other words an integrated approach.
There is no other option. Integration means compromise, which in turn is always a bit unpleasant. Constantly check with each other, and with the customer, that things are accurate, meaning accurate in meeting the needs of your customers, but within the key parameters of how you do business. The customer is not “king.” And the customer does not want a supplier, especially in a sophisticated and complex business, to be a “serf.” Serious customers want serious suppliers. And serious suppliers are not serfs to anyone and at any time.