Strategy Formulation

German Approach

Germans believe that important decisions should be reached via consensus. Ideally within the entire management team, but at least among its key members. Once made, those decisions are best implemented when communicated, understood and accepted by the entire team.


American Approach

Americans believe that important decisions should be made by the leader. Ideally with input from key members of the management team. Once made, those decisions are best implemented when communicated and understood by the entire team.


German View

Germans are irritated when input is sought only from selected members of the management team. These, along with perhaps other trusted colleagues who may not be directly involved, form a kind of kitchen cabinet. Germans are also bothered when there is low tolerance for open discussion and debate about important issues within the entire management team.

American View

From the American point of view the German pursuit of consensus on strategy and on important decisions rarely succeeds. Inevitably it requires too much time, or the internal debate never ends. Or worse, a suboptimal strategy is chosen in order to please as many interests as possible. In the U.S. leadership by consensus is a contradiction in terms.

Advice to Germans

From the point of view of your American team members you are expected (and paid) to make decisions, especially strategic ones. Request and take seriously input from your direct reports. But in the end, you decide. And you take responsibility. Americans expect you to lead from the front, not from the middle, and certainly not from the back.

If your American lead neither builds consensus nor consults your opinion, choose wisely the time and place to request a one-on-one talk. Do not insist that your opinion be considered on important decisions. And certainly do not hint that she does not listen. Finessefully lead your manager to recognize that your viewpoint has value. If it does, you will be consulted. And more often than you expect.

Advice to Americans

Regardless of how clear you are in your strategic thinking, and how confident you are in your decisions, if you don‘t get the buy-in from your German direct reports (or the wider German organization), they will be neither able nor willing (or both) to implement them effectively. At the same time, let them know when the point has been reached for you to decide. Germans, too, see the downside of exaggerated consensus building.

Welcome your German lead‘s invitation to influence decisions and strategy. But do not misinterpret it as a leadership void. And be careful. Your advice might be accepted. If accepted, be prepared to remain involved and to carry part of the responsibility for your strategic input.