Germans expect room to interpret decisions when implementing them. They consider that to be a key part of their work. In many situations deviation from an assigned task is unavoidable, thus accepted and expected by leadership. In certain situations Germans feel obligated to deviate greatly from a decision which they, as experts on the ground, judge to be unwise, counterproductive, or harmful to the business.
The line between those who make decisions and are responsible for their outcomes, and those who carry out those decisions, is drawn very distinctly in the American context. Decisions which cannot work or would damage overall efforts are communicated carefully and diplomatically up through the chain of command by those working on the tactical level. There is very low tolerance﹣among both team leads and members﹣for independent questioning of decisions.
German team members often find American decisions too rigid. They feel degraded to mere implementers, following orders, forbidden to apply their education, training and experience to ever changing parameters on the ground.
German team leads are surprised when their American team members do not take the initiative to interpret the tasks assigned to them. They appear to expect those tasks to be spelled out in detail first before implementing. German team leads can get the impression that Americans are not sufficiently self-managing.
Americans in positions of authority, indeed, do not tolerate implementation deviating too far from the original intent of a decision. They note with astonishment to what degree German team members modify or revisit management decisions. In some instances revisting borders on insubordination.
American team members are surprised to hear from their German team leads that they should interpret more actively the tasks assigned to them. They wonder why the team lead simply doesn‘t make that task more clear. And they are equally surprised by how freely their German colleagues interpret management decisions.
Advice to Germans
Expect your American team members to ask for approval before they diverge from your decisions. They will be less willing than their German colleagues to act independently of you. This is not a sign that they cannot self-manage, but of respect for your authority and judgement. At the same time, encourage them to make necessary adjustments without your approval.
If you are a German with an American team lead be very careful about making adjustments or changes to decisions without first getting a sign-off. American leads sees themselves as ultimately responsible for the results of their team’s results. Check with your lead first, discuss your recommendation, get permission. If your advice is good, you will be given more and more freedom to act independently.
Advice to Americans
Your German team members will consult you far less frequently during implementation. And they will make adjustmens, even major deviations, without first getting your approval. This is not a challenge to your authority. Discuss with your team when they need your input before deviating from your decisions or from the overall plan.
If you report to a German lead, and you see the need to immediately adjust your tactical plan, do so without asking your lead for approval. Maintain forward movement. If the decision itself requires reassessment, inform your lead of the options, state your preference, begin implementing. Your German lead will get back to you if in disagreement of your preference.