German Approach

The Germans prefer a complete deliverable received late over an incomplete one on time. Lateness is tolerated as long as expectations of the final deliverable are met. Completeness is preferred to speed.

American Approach

Because rapid response time is so important in the U.S. economy, Americans expect initial parts of a deliverable as quickly as possible. Partial deliverables early often meet the needs better than the complete product on time. Speed is preferred to completeness.

German View

Germans are impressed with rapid response times. But often they misperceive partial deliverables as most or all that they will receive. They then conclude that their American colleague has not fully lived up the agreement.

To then learn that they have to aggregate several parts of the deliverable makes them question whether their American partners are capable or willing to deliver a complete product.

American View

There are seldom situations in the American context when missing a due date is easily justified. From the American point of view, their German colleagues are simply too slow, their deliverables too perfect.

Opportunities are missed. Particularly frustrating is to have very little communication during the agreed upon delivery time, only to have the deliverable suddenly arrive.

Advice to Germans

Completeness vs. schedule, quality vs. speed, whatever terms you choose, this is an area of potentially considerable friction. Address this issue from the very outset of an agreement.

Define the terms specifically. What deliverables are involved? In what form will they be delivered? In pieces or as a whole? By when? From whom, to whom?

For the sake of clarity, recommend to each other that you document this. And most importantly, remain in constant contact with each other about any modifications to this crucial part of the agreement.

Advice to Americans

Completeness vs. schedule, quality vs. speed, whatever terms you choose, this is an area of potentially considerable friction. Address this issue from the very outset of an agreement.

Define the terms specifically. What deliverables are involved? In what form will they be delivered? In pieces or as a whole? By when? From whom, to whom?

For the sake of clarity, recommend to each other that you document this. And most importantly, remain in constant contact with each other about any modifications to this crucial part of the agreement.