How fast?

The American tendency to work at a fast pace and aim for rapid results continues to confound Germans. They have difficulty identifying a logical and structured plan for action amongst their business dealings, and where Americans see hard work and flexibility in action, they suspect only chaos. When Germans feel overrun by American ‘decisionism’ and see their standards of quality and the rhythm of their own style of working as becoming endangered, this confusion can quickly transform into irritation.

A bad decision is better than no decision.” There are few Americans likely to disagree with this popular saying. Germans, however, would tend towards saying the exact opposite. Sometimes even a good decision will find no supporters.

From the American perspective, it is the client who is the most significant factor in determining  the deadline for a given decision. Americans value a client-oriented business model. Because Americans tend to operate under the assumption that this same dynamic exists in in Germany as well, they find it difficult to understand why their German colleagues would risk upsetting a customer over time wasted during the decision-making process.

Priorities and time factors can change during the process of making any decision. Americans prefer to divide this process up into multiple sub-processes or steps. The sequence of these steps must remain flexible – meaning that it should be possible to change their order, or even skip a step or two in between if necessary. From this point of view, the structured discipline of the German decision-making process can appear exceedingly rigid and in-flexible – occasionally appearing as though it would directly conflict with the purpose of the decision itself.

It is almost as though the decision-making process would be more important than the final decision. To Americans, the German approach of assigning so much importance to the process of making a decision as to possibly loose perspective of the final decision itself can seem rather paradoxical. For this reason, one might suspect that simple indecision is being masked by a seeming concern for ‘attention to detail’.

Of course the German understandings of process and customer relations play a role here (according to the motto: ‘The client wants a solution from us. Our processes guarantee a solution, so the client knows that he can wait.’) But surely there must be something more involved; Germans can see that during the process of making an important decision one must also make a series of decisions which are smaller, but not insignificant to the bigger picture. These decisions are key elements of a systematic (or self-perpetuating) approach, each de facto requiring more time for consideration.

Ultimately, whether or not the rebounding American approach – making quick decisions, then revising them just as quickly – is actually faster typically depends on the related events. ‘Wir haben mit Äpfeln und Birnen zu tun’ – you can’t compare apples and oranges (or pears). Nevertheless, there will always be those colleagues who will continue do do so, and continue to bicker.