“Our two companies were merged about a year ago. Post-merger integration has been completed. Recently we have begun experiencing cultural problems. More and more often our American colleagues refuse to participate in meetings. They simply say ‘No more meetings!’ We don’t know how to react. What should we do?”
John Otto Magee
Well, first off, it sounds like the honeymoon is over. There was the initial euphoria. Then came post-merger integration (PMI) with all of its complexity, the many long intense discussions about workstreams, etc.
That was PMI in the technical sense. But the human part has just begun. You’re collaborating. Intensely. Day-in. Day-out. The influence of cultural differences on that collaboration are exerting their influence.
“No more meetings!” is a clear sign that you’re experiencing rather serious problems in your cross-Atlantic collaboration. Ok, no big deal, this is normal. In fact, it is healthy.
Instead of giving a long, detailed response to your question, let me make a few points and include links to further material to read and reflect on, and then ideally to discuss with your colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic.
There are significant differences in how Germans and Americans communicate. Those differences, if not undestood, can inhibit communication. And I mean communication in the literal sense: A not understanding what B has said.
See our content on CI on the Topic – Communication here.
You and your colleagues are meeting in order to make decisions, in order to move forward. It sounds like your American colleagues would like to do less talking, less discussing and more acting, more moving forward.
Well, the fact is that Americans and Germans makes decisions in accordance to different logics. Compared to their German colleagues, Americans want to move much more quickly, after having done less analysis, accepting a higher level of risk.
And remember that in the American context decisions – especially important ones – are made with far less consensus-building than in Germany. Americans need less time to discuss, analyze, and decide. They “get out of the blocks” much more quickly than is the case in Germany. Whether their decisions, and their implementation, is better, that is a discussion for another day, and a very complex discussion.
Finally, this could be about power. Not all conflicts or differences of opinion or misunderstandings in cross-border collaboration are caused by cultural differences. Often it is simply a divergence of interests, self- or organizational interests.
For whatever reason, perhaps your American colleagues just don’t want to discuss and debate with their German colleagues a certain topic or issue or decision. They want to act.
Let me offer some consolation, which I stated at the beginning of my response. This problem you are experiencing – “No more meetings!” – is normal in the Germany-USA space. I have experienced it, witnessed it, been involved in it many many many times.
Read this response of mine. Reflect on it. Read the material I have linked to. Read and reflect on that. Send this Q&A to your colleagues, both German and American. Speak together about it. Germans and Americans. You might be surprised how quickly you find a resolution.