Discipline vs. Deviation

German Approach

Processes are most effective when they maintain a balance between conformity and flexibility. Germans prefer generally formulated processes allowing for interpretation based on the parameters of a specific situation. Judgement calls are driven by training and experience.

Patterns

American Approach

Like their Germans colleagues Americans seek that fine line between process discipline and flexibility. The moment a process step makes unnecessary﹣no added value﹣demands, Americans will consider deviation. Judgement calls are made via internal communication within the team and with next level management.

Patterns

German View

When and why Americans adhere strictly to a process versus when they deviate, appears arbitrary, remains a mystery to Germans. It can be a source of irritation. Because the Germans construct complicated and interconnected processes, it is critical to be informed early about deviations.

American View

And it’s the same for the Americans: When and why Germans adhere strictly to a process versus when they deviate, appears arbitrary, remains a mystery to the Americans. It can be a source of irritation. And although many Germans processes are formulated in only very general, often theoretical language, they seem to expect strict adherence to them. 

Advice to Germans and Americans

Get together. Address those processes which are key to your success. Identify their key gates or checkpoints. Discuss, understand, then if possible decide when specific process steps must be followed strictly versus when they can be interpreted.

Also, agree on how you will inform yourselves of these choices. Life is fluid. The business world is fluid. Your internal processes need to be fluid. Be prepared to discuss on a regular basis so that you remain fluid in your collaboration.

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