Jul 28, 2015

Changing change management

If you're looking for new tools driving your change process consider more digital methods. Easy to implement and with high impact. I like the "hands-on" approach  in this article as it reduces complexity. Published by Boris Ewenstein, Wesley Smith, and Ashvin Sologar from McKinsey & Company. 


Jul 21, 2015

“Agreed” is a promise - How you ensure delivery in a German-Spanish team

„We need your help. Our Spanish team colleagues are not delivering what we agreed…“ - This was about the first thing we heard when a German client called us. He was desperate because the project was very important, time lines were tight, and workload high. Of course, we thought something like “Well, then let’s start improving the project plan…” would help. But, as always reality was a little different and this team needed something else than a perfect project plan. 

So we went back to basics and interviewed the key players.  Our Spanish Senior Coach talked to the Spanish team in Madrid and our German Senior Coach did the same with the German team in Munich. Interviews went very well because the teams could speak in their mother tongue. This made it much easier for them talking about sensitive topics. 

Teresa Ramos, BWC Coach,
talking about intercultural diffenrences
It became clear very quickly that we were facing some intercultural differences influencing collaboration, trust level, and communication in the team.  One of the big pain points was about reliable delivery. Wouldn’t you think that agreeing on tasks and deadlines would be sufficient enough for delivery? - The Germans did and were disappointed when commitments weren’t kept.

Here we could really help with highlighting an important difference between German and Spanish cultures. In German culture reliability is a core value. If you agree on a deadline you keep the deadline. If you agree to deliver a certain result the result will be 100% the standard you want. If you agree, you make a promise to fulfill your commitments! Germans believe this and rely on your word.

In Spanish culture you can see a more flexible way of fulfilling tasks - which is great when you need to react to spontaneous changes. Deadlines are not always final. Delivering 60% quality is fine if meeting the deadline is the priority, because low quality can be always improved along the way.  “We’re reliable because we deliver in time” is the Spanish perception, “even if the results are not perfect.” In Spain you can negotiate any time - even after agreeing - and you will always find a solution.

So back to our multinational client team: for the Spanish team understanding that agreements are a promise and quality is not negotiable for Germans was one of the biggest eye-openers. Now they knew they had to clarify tasks before delivering, ensure 100% quality is possible with given resources, and negotiate stronger if time was the constraint. Otherwise, their reliability would suffer. 

The German team became aware how strong their values had influenced their assumptions and how important it was accepting different perceptions. “Don’t expect Spaniards to act like Germans even if they work in a German setting” was one of their key learning. If they wanted 100% quality and reliable delivery they now ensured that the Spanish team had sufficient information and time. 

Some tips for working in or leading German-Spanish teams:

  • Clarify mutual expectations right from the start - Don’t only follow your assumptions.
  • Talk about your values when it comes to quality and deadlines - Stay open for compromises.
  • Explain what agreements mean and imply for you - Don’t rely “agree” means the same to all.
  • Open up for different perspectives - Your reality is not the only valid one!
  • Build trust by listening to your team - Respect different cultures.
Brigitta Wurnig, BWC CEO, talking about team dynamics.

It’s fun working in international teams and you can benefit from different cultures if you integrate them. For us this is crucial for today’s leaders of multinational teams, especially in virtual settings.  It still is a journey for some leaders and we love supporting them and their teams with our intercultural coaching bringing our German, Spanish, and British expertise to the table.  Read more about our team coaching approach on our website here