The German dictionary Duden defines Flexibilität (flexibility) as: flexible property, quality, composition, character; bendability, pliability; the ability to adjust, adapt, conform.

Synonyms: Wendigkeit agility, maneuverability, mobility; Nachgiebigkeit compliance, softness, resilience, yielding; Geschmedigkeit malleability, litheness, limberness.


Duden, the German dictionary, defines abweichen as: to change direction; to be different, to differentiate. 

Synonyms are: differ, deviate, vary, veer, depart, stray, drift, digress, swerve, aberrate. But also to be at variance, to go rogue.

Caucus discipline

Members of the German Parliament are expected to vote with their party caucus. The term is Fraktionsdisziplin or caucus discipline. 

Casting their individual votes in a unified way is the result of an internal process: party conventions define the political plattform; policy positions are worked out in detail; the parliamentary members are issued their guidelines for voting.

For in the end a party’s power and influence in the Bundestag is based on its ability think and act as a unified body.

Fraktionsdisziplin, however, does not mean Fraktionszwang – caucus coercion. On certain legislation Members of the Parliament can deviate from the party line. 

They have what the Germans call the Prinzip des freien Mandats – principle of independent mandate, which on matters of conscience is greater than maintaining caucus discipline.

See the Christian Democrats in the Bundestag.


Gesetz. Law, passed by the government; legally binding directive; an inherent way of doing something, an order of things; an unchangeable set of relations in nature.

Verordnung. A directive set by a governmental body.

Anweisung. A command, order; a written document communicating what is to be done.

Richtlinie. A guideline; an indication, recommendation, suggestion of how one should behave, handle a certain situation.

Regel. Rule. Latin regula, a standard, a set of measures; an agreement about behaviour, for how to do something; how in general something is done.

Leitplanke. Literally a guard rail along a road or highway; a guideline.

Don‘t write it down

In Germany the written word has a higher level of binding character (commitment) than the spoken. Once a process – how the work is done – has been documented, and if done so in a detailed way, Germans feel obligated to work along that process in a strict way.

This reduces their freedom to deviate from the process, to improvize, based on the specifics of a given situation. For this reason, and a few other, Germans do their best to avoid documenting how they work.

The German self-understanding also comes into play. They often feel that it is simply not necessary to write down how they work. Germans are well-trained, tend to work in the same area for many years, are very familiar with formal and informal processes, can rely on the advice of their colleagues and management, and want always the freedom to work independently.

And German departments have a high level of institutional knowledge, which is passed on to younger colleagues. It is seldom necessary for colleagues sit down and document all of the things they do in order to produce good work results.