Process Rhythm

All processes have a rhythm, made up of the individual process steps, their sequence and the time allotted to them. Processes do not exist in a vacuum, however. Every process and its rhythm is subject to external factors.

Germans do their best to prevent external factors from influencing the rhythm of their processes, however. They believe that if a given decision making process has proven to be effective, if it has led to good decisions, it should not be interrupted or distracted.

If the decision is an important one, if the decision making process has proven to be robust, Germans will do their best to shield it from external factors.

Decision Making Process

Germans are process oriented. They think through how a task is best completed. Germans set up work processes which are logical, structured, can be monitored and optimized. Since there is no action without first a decision to act, Germans focus on how decisions are made.

The more complex the decision, the more carefully Germans consider how they make it. Who will be affected by the decision? Who has the final say about the decision? Who has what rights and responsibilities? Germans believe that routine, yet complex, decisions are best made with the help of a decision making process. And the better the process, the better the decisions made.

The Germans are methodical. In order to maintain Überblick (overview) and Durchblick (throughview) they distinguish carefully between specific steps and their individual requirements within a decision making process. Germans believe that a methodical approach minimizes mistakes.

They also assign a generous time frame to an important decision. In order to move carefully through the process they allow for the repetition of certain steps. Germans believe in moving to the next step in a process only after the preceding step has been completed properly. Patience and thoroughness are critical.

A methodical approach means a well-structured process with sequential action. The clearer the process, the tighter and more logical the sequence of the individual steps, the better coordinated all of the related activities.

Method. Latin methodus, Greek méthodos: The path of analysis, the route to somewhere; a set way to reach insight; a specific way of doing something; the path to a specific goal; based on a plan; well thought through.

German education stresses methodology. University students receive their degrees after demonstrating in a thesis that they have mastered the methodologies current in their field of study. The first part of a thesis goes into great detail about the specific methodology of analysis applied to the subject.

Sequence. Latin sequentia: order of things; to place similar things in line; repetition of a musical motif; shorter pieces of a movie put in a specific order; series of cards in a row.

Geduld

Hastig: hasty, impatient: To act rashly without having considered the consequences; unsettled, jumpy, nervous.

Eile mit Weile translates roughly “take your time when moving quickly”. The Germans believe that good work can be completed sooner by taking your time, working thoroughly, avoiding mistakes whose correction will require more time. ‘Eile mit Weile’ is for the Germans not a contradiction in terms but a proven approach.

Another common figure of speech in German is ‘mit dem Kopf durch die Wand’, literally to try to go through the wall with your head. It signals a lack of sophistication, of imagination, of the ability to navigate around barriers. Those who attempt ‘mit dem Kopf durch die Wand’ are seen as stubborn, unreflective, rough, intellectually lazy. These are not compliments in the German culture.

Geduld: patience; to bear, to carry; calm and self-controlled acceptance of something which is uncomfortable or could take a long time. Geduld – patience – is required especially in professions whose results come at a much later time. Geduld is also required when work involves much trial and error.

Vorbereiten: to prepare: to orient oneself to something; to make oneself capable; to complete necessary work ahead of time, in anticipation of; to prepare or develop oneself.

Germans plan. They place great value on preparation. ‘Was man im Kopf nicht hat, muss man in den Füssen haben’ translates roughly as “What one doesn‘t have in their head, they need to have in their feet”, meaning those who are unprepared have to hustle here and there in order to complete their tasks.

Being unprepared slows down the work of the other colleagues, threatens the execution of the overall plan, forces a rescheduling of work results. Germans feel very uncomfortable when a plan is poorly executed.

Before a German begins a specific task the tools have been laid out, the job description and requirements have been thoroughly read, all the necessary pieces have been assembled, the work plan is pinned on the wall above the workbench, so to speak. The work is then completed in a timely fashion and with an eye on quality.

This is the approach of a master artisan in his shop, of a German Hausfrau in the kitchen, of a German professor at the university. Rarely does that professor need to scurry back to his office in order to get a certain book or paper. Disorganization is a sign of being unzuverläßig, unreliable. What was he thinking that he forgot the book? Is he really serious about his work? How reliable is someone who doesn’t prepare their work?

Rarely the final step

Formal presentations are rarely the final step in a German decision making process. Rarely do German managers make a critical decision shortly after having listened to the presentation of various options.

Instead they will take time to reflect, discuss with their direct reports, get additional input from subject area experts, use colleagues at different management levels as sounding boards.

The act of persuasion in the German business context is seldom aimed at getting a specific decision. Truly persuasive argumentation seeks to influence, steer, route the thinking to or in the direction of a desired decision.

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