Strategy and Tactics

German Approach

Germans﹣those leading as well as those being led﹣prefer generally formulated, mission oriented tasks. The mission addresses more the what and less the how. Overall responsibilitiy for results lies on the tactical level with the implenter, but is shared to some degree with the team lead.


American Approach

Americans﹣those leading as well as those being led﹣prefer specifically formulated, command oriented tasks. The command addresses both the what, and to some degree the how. Overall responsibilitiy for results lie on the strategic level with the team lead, but is shared to some degree with the implementer.


German View

Germans experience American management as too involved on the implementation level. They use the American term micromanagement, and describe it as top-down. Germans perceive their American team lead as „telling me how to do my job.”

American View

German leadership is seen by American team members as distanced, not adequately involved, almost passive, at times even absent. Tasks assigned are so broadly defined that implementation can be difficult to define. Americans expect more detail concerning the what and the how, but are often reluctant to ask for guidance.

Advice to Germans

Make clear to your American team members to what degree you will spell out the tasks you assign. In other words, how they should do their work on the tactical level. Explain, and maintain dialogue about, where you draw the line between strategy (what) and tactics (how). That line should be fluid and flexible.

Americans are motivated and successful when their team lead is actively involved in their work. If you don‘t manage on the tactical level, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

If you work in a team led by an American, and the how is too well-defined, too prescriptive, first reflect on it. Formulate your approach, then discuss it with your lead, so that she remains involved. Maintain that dialogue.

Advice to Americans

When leading Germans be more teacher than coach. Germans want to succeed on their own and in their own way. They‘ll come for advice soon enough. If they need your advice, but don‘t offer it. Instead, send discreet signals that you‘re approachable.

As recommended to your German colleagues who lead Americans, establish a dialogue with your German team members about where you draw the line between strategy (what) and tactics (how).

If your boss is German, and it is not clear what is expected, don‘t request clarity. Define your role. Rely on your education, training and experience. Then either execute based on that or request input.

If you do ask for input, go into the discussion like a junior partner in a consulting firm seeking advice (not direction) from a more experienced colleague. But, be prepared to hear: “There is no need for me to spell that out for you. You’re a professional. You should know how to do your job.”