Germany is not a resource-abundant society. And throughout its centuries-old history it has experienced times of acute shortages. These experiences have left their stamp on the German product philosophy, which considers efficiency a key charateristic of any physical product. Efficient in its development and manufacturing, as well as in its use. Germans strive to achieve more with less.
The United States remains today one of the resource-richest countries in the world. Although efficiency is among the key characteristics of any product, Americans focus less on the conservation of material and of energy. Output almost always outweighs efficiency.
Germans find Americans to be wasteful of resources. The trend of the last years to supersizing is considered to be irresponsible and lacking in self-control. Oversized houses, automobiles, meals served in restaurants reinforce the impression that America is not interested in doing things in an efficient way.
Americans have become aware of the importance of efficiency and progress is being made. At the same time U.S. companies have been successful nonetheless. Their experience is that products, indeed, can be profitable despite weaknesses in efficiency. Either way, Americans respect the efficiency of German products.
Advice to Germans
You will identify many areas in which Americans can be more efficient. And bringing your German sense of efficiency into those areas can improve results. But keep in mind that your working relationship is not exclusively about results as measured by efficiency. It is also about the relationship itself. Remember that a working relationship is one part work and one part relationship.
Advice to Americans
Anticipate the importance of efficiency in all that the Germans do, develop, produce. Anticipate also their view of American approaches as often being inefficient. Listen carefully and take seriously their input on how to do things more efficiently. It’s one of their great strengths. Profit from it. At the same time remind your German colleagues that efficiency is not everything. Often output really does trump efficiency. But you need to make that case.