There’s a saying in English. ‘There’s no smoke without fire!’ it simply means nothing happens without a reason… or from what we learn during Lean Six Sigma Training, there’s no Effect if there’s no Cause…
Stereotypes had to come from somewhere, otherwise, why do we have them? We tend to avoid discussing stereotypes. It’s not politically correct and we like to think we don’t adhere to them, but if we’re honest, much of the time we do.
Stereotypes are dangerous. They indicate fixed positions and they don’t allow room for Lean and Six Sigma thinking.
I recently delivered several 4 week Lean Six Sigma Black Belt courses with project work, for a multinational in the shipping industry. The location was 2 weeks in Copenhagen, 1 week in Rotterdam and the last week was in France. The attendees were British, German, Scandinavian and French. Teams were a mixture of all nationalities.
As the training and team projects progressed, national traits became apparent. The Brits were weaker at data analysis, but great at brainstorming and just wanted to get on and try solutions.
The Germans and Scandinavians were very thorough with data analysis and following the steps, however could not easily adjust their solution as more facts became known later during solution mode which contradicted earlier assumptions and data. The Scandinavians took longer convincing but very dedicated once engaged. The Norwegians found the concept of “Efficiency”, difficult to grasp as there isn’t such a term in the Norwegian language.
The French were great at documenting the process at the end to ensure good follow through when handing over to the process stakeholders. Also the French site insisted all course attendees stop every day for one hour for a multi-course lunch with wine. The previous trainer was American and apparently couldn’t get used to accommodating the cultural differences, and had no patience for the French lunch breaks.
The team that had the best result was the one where they recognized the strengths of the different team members and had them lead at different stages of the project. Some teams, however, got stuck at data analysis stage and couldn’t move on to take action, or took too long to make a decision. Then other teams rushed the data analysis and didn’t necessarily get a good solution in place, or the handover was sloppy to the key stakeholders in the organisation.
Very interesting experience.
National traits and characteristics do exist. And we all display them at times. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t individuals, or that we don’t have choices about how we behave. Making a generalisation about a cultural trait allows you to say it exists but not everyone displays it.
Establishing that it does exist simply helps explain certain cultural behaviours. One feature of cross cultural training is identifying where these stereotypes and generalisations are and aren’t helpful in a learning environment.
Stereotypes aren’t always bad!
Which stereotypes – negative and positive – are true or less true of your own country?