“Germans prefer to deliver complete results, even if late, over incomplete results, but fast. In addition, their frequency of follow-up is low compared to the U.S. How can American colleagues maintain constant and accurate overview of the agreements made with their German colleagues, including factoring in new agreements the Germans may have entered into?”
First, ask yourself when is it truly necessary to do follow-up. Americans do a lot of follow-up purely out of nervousness and anxiety. Start with taking a critical look at your own logic.
Second, when entering into individual agreements with your German colleagues, discuss and agree on the frequency of follow-up. Be sure to point out to them the American logic regarding follow-up. Sensitize them to the cultural difference.
Continually explain to your German colleagues the nature of the American business environment, especially the important of follow-up in maintaining an on-going overview of commitments, priorities, decisions, projects.
Third, when following up with your German colleagues simply ask them if the follow-up frenquency is still good, effective, working well. Yes, literally ask them. Give them a chance to signal to what the right frequency is. At the same time, explain to them the parameters within which you are operating, which, in turn, require follow-up.
Fourth, at an appropriate time reach out to your German colleagues and ask them to explain to you how Germans fundamentally handle follow-up. Ask them literally what the German logic is. Chances are your German colleagues will ask you about the American logic.
Always acknowledge the rightness and legitimacy of their logic. Honor the strengths of the German approach to follow-up. Remember, Germany has the fourth-largest economy in the world with only about 80 million people. They are certainly doing a whole lot of things right. Which means that how they handle agreements in general, and follow-up specifically, works and leads to success.
A final point: you must have all sorts of shared documents which inform both sides of the Atlantic Ocean about projects, customer interactions, and such. It should be technically possible to simply add another piece of information, another parameter.
Name it Follow-up. Then give it some pieces: project name; customer involved; information needs of customer, of US, of Germany; what information, in what form, why, by when, sent from whom, to whom.
And be sure to have a space for “factoring in new agreements the Germans – or the Americans – may have entered into.”