How cultural differences affect outsourcing – Germans & Eastern Europeans (IV)
In our first three articles from this series, we’ve seen how Germans and Eastern Europeans understand and apply in the business world the concepts of leadership, decision-making, trust, disagreeing, communication and evaluation. In this final article, we’ll see the attitude these two cultures have towards scheduling and persuading.
For Germans, time is linear, an approach also known as monochronic. This means that they work with a precise sequence of events and milestones that need to be achieved in a specific order. The deadlines are certain. By contrary, the Eastern Europeans have a polychronic orientation. This means that they will tend to do multiple things at the same time and will tend to be more flexible when setting deadlines.
Germans will be capable of better isolating individual tasks from the organization/project as a whole and measure them by output in time. Eastern Europeans will be more flexible in what concerns individual results and will focus on the overall goal.
In consequence, Germans work with precise agendas. Every meeting will be thoroughly prepared and so will be every stage of the project. They will deal with one item at a time until is completed. Germans will have low tolerance towards lateness – even the smallest delay will be considered as potentially damaging the entire project. However, this lack of flexibility can prevent them from trying more creative approaches, from fear of failure.
This also reflects on how both cultures deal with their relationships. Germans will precisely separate work time and personal time and will prioritize the plan/project above the personal affinities. Most business decisions will be made during business hours. Eastern Europeans will value more the quality of their personal relationships, even if this means more interruptions, phone calls, emails, small talk or even delays. Many business decisions can be taken on a business lunch or after the business hours, during dinner.
Advice for the Germans:
The monochronic style could seem rigid and could prevent the negotiations/business relations from running smoothly, even if this is not your intent. If your counterparty becomes reluctant, show your willingness to review certain items, even if you already agreed on them. Be patient, and do not become irritated if the other party doesn’t completely understand your monochronic approach. If the schedule is not followed, ask politely for an explanation and do not immediately assume that the cause is a lack of professionalism. Just because Eastern Europeans sometimes seem not to follow the plan, doesn’t mean they are disorganized. They may just have a different perspective. Communicate in a way that will ensure you and your business partner are always on the same page regarding expectations, deadlines or the meeting agendas.
Advice for Eastern Europeans:
Be as organized as possible in all you do, from the smallest things like being punctual, to the most important ones, like delivering on time. In meetings, try to set an agenda and follow it, don’t go off topic. The most important thing of all is to always meet your deadlines. Make sure you set realistic deadlines and plan things in such a way to avoid any possible delays. Don’t underestimate the time you need for a specific task and don’t overestimate your ability to multitask. Do not change plans without notice.
All kinds of things can influence the way time is managed in a cross-cultural project. But once aware of the differences, both teams can make an effort to become more flexible in their approach. A good plan, one which is agreed and followed by everyone, will help with that. We advise our clients to base their schedules on proven methodologies, systems and processes, but also leave some room to flexibility and adaptability. Everyone involved in the project, in any hierarchical position, should be aware of timelines and why they are important.
Work on a time management policy that will allow releasing tensions and deal with unexpected events in a professional way, without affecting the overall project.
This dimension is more abstract than the others and, in business, refers to the way both Germans and Eastern Euopeans approach negotiation, analysis and reporting.
Both Germans and Eastern Europeans use something called „principles first approach”. This means in any negotiation or presentation, they will first present the arguments, documents or data based on which they will further express their opinion/conclusion. The opposite of this approach is the „applications first” logic, in which you start with the conclusion, main idea or request and only afterward you present the arguments backing up your statement. Russians will tend to have this sort of approach.
Knowing this can be very helpful to attain the desired outcome from your business partner. The written communications, video conferences and face to face meetings, all can be influenced by the „principles first approach”. They will all need to be adapted so that everyone is on the same page every step of the project.
Advice for the Germans:
Take your time to learn which one of these two approaches are used by your outsourcer and adjust accordingly. As a German, you will naturally have a principles-first approach, methodically looking at as many facts as you can before having a conclusion. It is likely that your Eastern European partner will do the same. However, don’t be surprised if they will start with complex, technical concepts before getting to the point, to the basic facts. However, this tendency can be influenced by personal styles, education or previous business experience, so pay attention to each detail.
Advice for Eastern Europeans:
Observe your business partner behavior and see if they are inclined towards a more deductive or inductive logic. You can see this during meetings or presentations. Adapt your presentations accordingly. If your client asks for more data, try to see the overall purpose for which he asks this. Do not assume they are doing this from lack of trust, maybe they simply need more arguments. Keep a record of all documents and analytical data you gather throughout the project – you never know when you might need them again. Don’t lose yourselves in highly theoretical arguments and keep in mind the project’s scope.
The initial negotiations will usually be enough to determine if a person or business acts based on a principle-first or application-first logic, so is always best to do this from the negotiation phase. We know this can be difficult, this is why we are supporting our clients with the tools they need to create an effective communication process. Having a good methodology in place is important. You need to establish the frequency of meetings and reports, as well as their type – will they be analytical or business oriented? What type of metrics will you use to analyze your results? Clarifying this will make everyone’s work more efficient, setting the expectation about what data will be presented and when.
In these four articles, we have covered the main cultural differences affecting the business collaboration between countries. Added to our international business experience and personal research, we are grateful for the pioneering studies conducted by great authors, like Erin Meyer, and the structural analysis model she created – the same model was used for our articles.
Many assume that the IT world is based on and technical facts and theories, but the truth is, outsourcing is a business like any other. A better understanding of cultural differences can open up new opportunities for both Germans and Eastern Europeans. We always advise our clients to invest some time in figuring out the cultural pattern before beginning a new project. If you have any questions or want to share your thoughts and experiences, feel free to drop us a note.