Successful Transatlantic Collaboration
In addition to choosing the appropriate strategy for collaboration, there are a few other factors that play a major role when Germans and Americans work together. One of the most important is, not surprisingly, the development of good working relationships.
Participants in my workshops emphasize the importance of structures and processes that support relationships based on mutual understanding. The familiarity of both Americans and Germans with each other’s culture and business practices appears to be a central component for satisfactory and successful cooperation. This is especially true for the management and executive levels of the organization, but also for all other functions and levels.
Low overall turn-over and personnel stability are other key factors in helping Germans and Americans learn how to work together and to build the trust necessary for successful transatlantic cooperation. During innumerable training sessions, I have heard German participants express frustration about short-lived relationships with American business contacts. From their perspective, just when they feel they understand their American counterpart and have developed an adequate level of trust, the American gets transferred and the German has to begin developing the business relationship anew. They often add that this instability erodes their motivation to work with their American counterparts.
In addition to developing stable working relationships, setting clear goals and consistency is viewed as essential for success. One of the things many American participants in my workshops appreciate about German executives and managers was their ability to set goals and to act in ways that were consistent with those goals. Americans who have learned to work successfully with Germans also appreciate the longer-term approach that Germans typically take when setting goals and making plans.
But perhaps the biggest factor, and the one that underlies the development of good working relationships, is attitude. In my workshops, attitude is mentioned again and again as the key to successful collaboration. Specific attitudes mentioned include openness, respect, willingness to dialogue, as well as patience and willingness to adapt to different approaches. My experience leads me to conclude that those Germans and Americans who learn to understand the differences, as well as to appreciate the positive qualities of their transatlantic partners, are the one who is most successful in German-American organizations. They are also the ones most responsible for helping their teams and the larger organization succeed.