Much unease

Americans become very uneasy whenever they see their German colleagues address processes with their characteristic intensity. German process discipline is almost synonymous with rigidity.

Another, more careful, look reveals, however, a contradiction. On the one side, German processes are generic, theoretical, complex and seemingly not fully focused on the goal. On the other, Americans have the sense that Germans expect processes to be followed by the letter. They ask themselves how they are supposed to follow a process which is hardly described?

German procedures are also generic and not spelled out. The Germans take this as a signal to decide independently, to make their own judgement, in a given situation. Instead of requesting input or permission from their manager, they either decide themselves or discuss with an experienced colleague how to handle a given procedure within the context of its process.

To the Americans this represents a severe breakdown in process discipline. They have little understanding, thus tolerance, for processes or procedures which allow for so much independent action when that action can lead to mistakes, errors, problems, to an domino effect.