German Management Theory

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German management, as it has evolved over the centuries and has established itself since World War II, has a distinct style and culture. Like so many things German, it goes back to the medieval guild and merchant tradition, but it also has a sense of the future and of the long term.

The German style of competition is rigorous but not ruinous. Although companies might compete for the same general market, as Daimler-Benz and BMW do, they generally seek market share rather than market domination. Many compete for a specific niche. German companies despise price competition. Instead, they engage in what German managers describe as Leistungswettbewerb, competition on the basis of excellence in their products and services. They compete on a price basis only when it is necessary, as in the sale of bulk materials like chemicals or steel.

The German manager concentrates intensely on two objectives: product quality and product service. He wants his company to be the best, and he wants it to have the best products. The manager and his entire team are strongly product oriented, confident that a good product will sell itself. But the manager also places a high premium on customer satisfaction, and Germans are ready to style a product to suit a customer's wishes. The watchwords for most German managers and companies are quality, responsiveness, dedication, and follow-up.

Product orientation usually also means production orientation. Most German managers, even at senior levels, know their production lines. They follow production methods closely and know their shop floors intimately. They cannot understand managers in the United States who want only to see financial statements and "the bottom line" rather than inspect a plant's production processes. A German manager believes deeply that a good-quality production line and a good-quality product will do more for the bottom line than anything else. Relations between German managers and workers are often close, because...
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