First month of the semester done and we’ve already learned so much about the overall consulting process and have been working very diligently every day to create strong deliverables for our client. Although there are still months left in the semesters, it feels as if we are running out of time. There is only one more month or 582 hours and 17 minutes until we are able to meet face-to-face with our client in Augsburg, Germany. I’m getting extremely excited, but also nervous.
Since we will soon be in Germany, we’ve been speaking more about what to expect for the trip. Recently, Hillary came to our class to discuss some of the key cultural aspects we should be mindful of. In class, she highlighted an article written by Erin Meyer in the Harvard Business Review about eight factors to consider when conducting business internationally. The factors include communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling. Each factor has a scale of two “sides” that countries can be on and where on the scale they fit. The scale is similar to a single line which has arrows at each end to show how the opposite the two extremes are. For instance, for the communicating factor the two ends are low context versus high context. High context means that countries communication is usually layered, sophisticated, and requires reading between the lines. Some countries who fell deeply towards this end include China and Sudan. The opposite of high context is low context, which involves communication that is more precise, explicit, and expressed at face value. The United States is all the way towards the end for low context, which means this communication strategy is preferred. Luckily, Germany is also very low context, however, it is not towards that end as much as the United States, so it may be beneficial, especially when speaking with the client to analyze the conversations for any underlying meanings so we can fully gage the entirety of what they say to us. It is also important for us to communicate in a way that may have some layers. Hillary also highlighted the trusting factor in the article. For this factor the two ends are task-based trust versus relationship-based trust. Task-based trust means that work relationships are built and dropped easily depending on the practicality of the situation. The United States uses this methodically of trusting. However, on the opposite end is relationship-based. This type of trusting needs to be built gradually overtime by using personal time to engage with them. Examples of building this type of trust include getting meals and sharing information about outside of work life. Germany’s trusting is a bit towards the relationship side which was actually a surprise to me. That means we, as a class should consider while in country to building upon that trust and spending time with them doing unrelated work activities. This could benefit our project and create a stronger by in from our client.
Our class also has been discussing things such as what to pack and what to wear for the time. Overall, our classes have been progressively becoming more prepared for the trip and our client interaction while abroad. I think in order for our client face-to-face interaction to be successful, it is important to overcome barriers such as cultural norms that could affect the way we handle business. Some of the personal research I’ve been doing talked about how in Germany, work and personal lives are supposed to be kept separately. One article I read spoke about it is important to make sure that if we are invited to an outside of work event, we should not use that time to speak about business. When thinking back on this specific detail, I correlated it to when Hillary told us that in Germany, we may need to be more relationship-based to establish trust. Therefore, as a class we need to make sure we use those opportunities to build on the relationship so that they would trust our business input, but not talk about business when building that trust. We should just that time to build upon the relationship. Some other things to take into consideration are things such as maintaining eye contact and showing respect to those high up in the chain of command. As I read online through many sources, keeping eye contact is a form of respect and I know sometimes it may feel awkward, so it is important that I gradually become more comfortable with keep eye contact.
Overall, this class has taught me so much about being a consultant. I am excited to see what things we will be continuing to learn about the process and working with an international client.
Some things that I have taken away from the course so far is the importance of being very open about what I am doing. For instance, we’ve been working on a detailed and tight scope of work to send out to the client. It outlines our objectives, outcomes, timeline, and purpose of the project. What we’ve learned from Meade is that the scope of work is important to get the client initial reaction to the deliverables we have in mind for the project. Then, we can get Alexander’s input early on and have his feedback guide us to create what he is looking for so that he isn’t surprised by a “big reveal”. This type of gradual input and receiving feedback form the client is also important so that the buy in for our ideas is stronger because it will make Alexander feel like he has been guiding us in finding the solution as well. It is also important to keep the client’s needs at the root of the solution and to consult within throughout the process so that we don’t go off the rails creating what we think they need versus what they could actually use.
In general things I expect to learn a lot from being in Germany with the client including transitioning from an email, phone call, and online consultant client relationship to a in person relationship. I feel that it will be extremely different interacting with our client in personal especially since we will be able to get more information from his nonverbal communication. We will be able to observes his facial reaction and his movements when we present our project to see how he really feels about the work we’ve done. Also, since we will be visiting one of manroland Goss clients, I can also learn more about their business process. I am excited to come into that experience with lots of discovery questions to really get a feel for their relationship with our client and how social media has added to it. This interaction may lead us into discovering more about the company and possibly being able to add into the deliverables we have planned for them. Another part of being in country that I’m excited to learn from is adjusting my communicational skills for an international client. I think that although Germany communication seems similar to American communication, I can still see this slight difference making an impact on how I will have to communicate. It will be interesting to see how our class will adjust to this. Lastly, I think being in country will help me learn a lot about taking feedback and applying it. Although, we will be sending status reports before presenting some of our work, I feel that the best feedback we will be able to receive will come from Alexander’s in person reaction. That way we can explain what we’re doing and answer his questions, while also taking note of any concerns to make our deliverables as strong as possible. Also, may times students do not receive real feedback for their assignments, they just receive a grade with slight commentary. What differentiates this class from doing a project in a normal course is the ability to grow and improve as consultants. With Meade and Alexander giving us tons of feedback, we will be able to learn and grow, not just receive the standard grade for our work.
This is the first time I’ve ever done an assignment of this sort. I feel as if our class has a real opportunity to make change for our client and impact them as a business. Therefore, with his unique opportunity, I think it is important that we analyze and take ever chance for more input and feedback to create a stronger set of deliverables. One more month till we’re in Germany. We have a lot of work to do as a class, but I have high hopes for our project and I cannot wait to see what we are able to deliver to our client, manroland Goss.