Richtlinie or guideline

Americans have a higher tolerance for deviating from processes. Americans see processes and procedures fundamentally as tools. Whereas a German colleague sees in a process a Richtlinie (order, instruction), his American counterpart often sees a guideline. The term guideline is often translated into Richtlinie. This translation is false and misleading.

Like their German colleagues, Americans seek that fine line between process-discipline and -flexibility. The moment a process makes unnecessary demands which do not serve the overall goals, that process is deemed rigid. Americans will deviate by reevaluating the most important factors: risk, resources, back-up contingencies, and the final value-added for the end-customer.

Results delivered in a timely fashion, even if the product of a process is not followed step-by-step, are preferred over results delivered too late, but the product of a process vs followed step-by-step. Americans, both as customers and suppliers, can “sleep at night” with the so-called 80%-solution, as long as the missing 20% is compensated by the advantage of speed, responsiveness or price (cost).

When to deviate: Americans are quick to deviate from steps within a process or procedure if: it does not add value, does not help, does not move their work forward; external forces demand it, such as schedule, budget or customer demands; after getting input from experienced colleagues and/or permission from their team lead or process owner; and as long as the deviation conforms (compliant) with laws and regulations.

Americans speak of taking a down and dirty approach, of doing whatever it takes to get the job done, of being pragmatic.