“What lasts long, ….”

Was lange währt, wird endlich gut – is a German play on words: what lasts long, will at last be good. If something takes time, even a long time, it will most likely turn out just right.

In the context of agreements having to wait a longer time for the deliverables of that agreement is worth it, worth the wait. Patience pays, pays off.

Geduld bringt Rosen – patience brings roses – or Rom wurde auch nicht an einem Tag erbaut – Rome wasn’t built in a day – or Steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein – steady drops of water hollow out the stone – are German figures of speech conveying the same message. Even if it takes a little longer, ….

Aus einem Guss

Germans like to work on problems, whole, not half problems. Work results handed off to the next colleague or department should be complete results. The closer to complete, the greater the level of respect the Germans show.

Products and services aus einem Guss – from one mold – are near-perfect, durable, reliable, innovative, consistent, no surprises, do not require finishing off, polishing, rework. They are the result of individual work steps which flow together into a whole, an entirety. German politicians refer to their legislative proposals as coming aus einem Guss. German companies do the same, especially those who develop and produce complex, sophisticated products.

Church bell chimes are made from the same cast iron mold. Otherwise they don‘t sound right. When Germans say something is aus einem Guss – from one mold – they mean it has been well thought out and executed. It is the opposite of thrown, tied, glued, patched, bolted, copy and pasted, together.

Figures of speech: Etwas dem letzten Schliff geben. To give it that extra polish. Ohne Kratzer. Without a scratch. Das ist eine runde Sache. That is well-rounded, meaning good job. Etwas abrunden. To round something off, in the sense of complete it. Der Ball ist noch nicht rund. The ball is not yet round, meaning incomplete. Flickenteppich. Hodgepodge. Pfusch. Botched, fumbled, fudged. Zusammen geschustert. Cobbled together.

Quality is key

When it comes to the so-called magic triangle – schedule, budget, quality – Germans will almost always sacrifice one of the first two, or both, before reducing quality. The German customer, whether internal or external, expects nothing less. They will wait, and might even pay more if necessary, as long as they receive what they have ordered, or better. Germans expect completeness and quality.

Germans respect – and enjoy – work completed properly and presented in good form. For they are critical people always looking for what is not quite right, even if it has little to no effect on the purpose of the work: Spelling mistakes, scratches, inconsistent file formats, unclear graphics, creaky joints, unnecessarily sharp edges, dripping faucets. A job completed and well done requires no rework, no improvement, deserves only praise, is a work of art. Satisfaction.

No news is bad news

No one likes cancellations or major modifications. Certainly not Germans. But they deal with them openly and quickly, making the necessary adjustments, including informing as soon as possible any and all people whose work is effected by the change. Colleagues who hear about cancellations, changes, or modifications late or via third parties feel insulted, and that their work has been degraded.

Particularly in German politics bad news is often communicated via the media. A politician who is failing or has become unpopular and is to be fired from their position might hear about it from the news media first. For them it is doubly hurtful. To inform people quickly is a sign of professionalism and respect for the other person. Delays are interpreted as tactical maneuvering, as a loss of trust.

Figures of speech: Einem Information aus der Nase ziehen. To pull information out of the other person’s nose. Wissen ist Macht. Knowledge is power. Information bunkern. To bunker or hoard information.

Angry shop owners. A brief article in a German regional newspaper. “Hardly any of the townsfolk are angry about the construction site. Traffic has to be redirected. Parking spaces have been reduced. The citizens of the town take it all in stride.

What makes them angry, however, is the lack of information communicated by the town government. Particularly the shop owners are angry whenever they are informed late about construction work done in their street. And some residents are irritated because they could not inform companies from out of town in time who are delivering furniture and such.“

“Communicate immediately!“

Germans expect to be informed immediately about any changes which impact the agreements they have entered into. From their perspective all agreements, large and small, involve interconnected activities among colleagues, including at times business partners and customers. A change in one area has immediate effect on the others, thus helping or hindering those colleagues in their work.

Although the majority of German work is based on time, they do not like to work on anything which will not be used. They expect to be informed as soon as possible about any changes to an agreement which affect their work. There is also the potential that they will suspect people of being political with important information. The sooner changes to an agreement are communicated to all parties, the better.

Figures of speech: Etwas ist zwecklos. Something is purpose-less. Ohne Sinn und Zweck. Without meaning and purpose. Für den Papierkorb arbeiten. Working for the trashcan.

Germans also strive to understand their work in the broader context, what impact their results have on those of other colleagues. They often say Alles hängt mit allem zusammen or everything is connected to everything else. If a colleague is on vacation, their tasks are divided up among a few other team members. Potential problems are discussed and prepared for beforehand. Responding to inquiries with the colleague is on vacation is a sign of incompetence and unprofessionalism.

“Good things need their time”

The German expression Gut Ding will Weile haben – good things need their time – states that things which are supposed to turn out good will need some time. This becomes clear especially when important decisions are to be addressed:

“Quality before speed: Merkel pulls the brakes at the introduction of new supervision of European banks.” (Handelsblatt 17.2.2015)

“The German Handball Federation President Bauer: “Quality comes before speed.“ (Lahner Zeitung 20.6.2014)

“NPD-Ban: Quality before speed.” (Hamburger Abendblatt 9.12.2011)