Degree of Detail

German Approach

Germans believe in detail. Their plans have a high degree of detail. Germans plan from A to Z. Germans prefer to plan well in advance before beginning execution.


American Approach

Americans believe in less detail. The degree of detail of their plans is based on the given situation. Americans plan A to C in great detail, begin executing, then continue planning as they proceed.


German View

From the German point of view American plans are often incomplete. The early stages are highly detailed, often moreso than their German equivalent, while the latter stages are shallow, vague, contingency-based. Americans begin executing before completing the plan.

American View

Americans can be overwhelmed by the degree of detail of German planning. They question the value of such depth. And planning from A to Z seems to be not only a huge waste of time and effort, but also disconnected from reality. Things change. Plans need to be constantly updated.

Advice to Germans

Explain to your American colleagues the value of detailed planning. If you can’t make the case for planning A to Z, then accept planning A to P or even A to F.

On the flip side challenge those same American colleagues about their A to C planning. Ask them for concrete reasons why they cannot or should not invest more time and effort into more detailed planning.

Advice to Americans

Remember that the German economy is the fourth-largest in the world with a population of only about 85 million. German planning works. Get into their heads, into their logic. Ask them why their planning so detailed.

At the same time explain why Americans go into far less detail. Explain why A to C, or max A to F, is more than adequate. Help them to understand how your approach to planning makes that judgement call about degree of detail.