Like in the Middle Ages

The discussions and debates about processes and their integration almost inevitably lead to power struggles: between corporate central functions, and with these as proxies for line management. 

Americans view these as the German tendancy towards navel-gazing, even though the real battle is taking place externally, in the market. Too much time and energy is devoted to organizational structure and internal rules of engagement. It distracts the company from the real work. Employees become frustrated.

2010. A German Dax30 company with a large operation in the U.S. A high-level American manager said: „It‘s like in the Middle Ages. German top management is constantly fighting over turf. The one stands in his castle high up on the hill looking across the river at the land of his rival thinking how he can get a piece of it. His rival is looking back thinking the same.“

And it really is so in many German companies. Prestige, influence and power are directly related to size, of organization, of revenues, of areas of responsibility. Compensation, too, is linked to the size of one‘s organization, literally to the number of employees.

So not only do Germans fight about organizational structure – whose team gets bigger, whose smaller – but also, and equally as important, about processes – how the work is done. Who does what and how.