“Are the Germans holding back?”

Americans and Germans decide to integrate processes. Process harmonization is the term used.  A common experience.

First look at and become familiar with the other side’s processes, procedures, etc. The Americans hand over their binders. Many of them. Long. Detailed. The Germans hand over theirs. Not as many. Not as long. Not as detailed. The Americans wonder where the rest is. “Are the Germans holding back? Not revealing? Playing politics?”

Another misperception. Not as many. Not as long. Not as detailed. In fact. The reason once revealed by a German engineer in the middle of the tension. “We do our best not to write down what we do and how we do it.” 

And why? “Because if it is written down in a process or a procedure, we are bound to doing it exactly in that way. We want to maintain our freedom and autonomy to choose situationally how we work.”

Is that the only reason? What about protecting your knowledge? He smiles discreetly. Not clever. Not sneaky. But conceding. “Yes. We Germans protect our knowledge as best we can. Not only companies, but also individual employees.” So, if it is documented well, then others can do it, also. Right? “Ja.”

There is a third reason. Who wants to take the time to document how an individual, a department, a division works? Drudgery. By the time all of those activities, all of that work, in all of its complexity has been documented, modifications have already taken place. It’s like painting San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge. Once you’ve completed the job, you have to begin all over again.