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Americans Like Action!

Most Americans tend to be task- and action-oriented. Many are happiest when they can take direct action and accomplish a defined task. They are generally comfortable with the planning stage as long as it doesn't seem to go on endlessly, and as long as there is clear action associated with it.  

A large number of Americans are also quite comfortable with, and might also be excited about, taking a calculated risk.  A common saying in the U.S. is: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," - meaning that if you don't risk anything, you won't gain anything. While taking a risk, however, most will continuously balance the potential gain versus the risks. If the potential benefit and chance of success are good, they will move forward, even if there are no models of success to imitate or use as a guide. To hedge against the risk, it's considered prudent to carefully monitor progress and make adjustments as necessary, or change direction altogether if the risk becomes too great.

The desire to act and the willingness to take risk make people with this style-preference ready and able to proceed with a project, even when there is not an abundance of information. To compensate for the insufficiency of information, they rely on their flexibility to make modifications as they go along as described above. This serves well in times of crisis as people with these capabilities are able to respond quickly and make adjustments as more information becomes available.

It is harder, however, for them to find the patience for lengthy analysis and consensus-building. If your company comes from a culture that avoids uncertainty and embraces consensus, it's likely that your American colleagues or subordinates have a hard time waiting for the action stage. They may also recognize that the American market can be fast-moving, which means it is quick to change, leaving a small window (time frame) of opportunity in which to act and succeed, and this may make them even more anxious to move forward quickly.  As a consequence, you may find the Americans you are working with become increasingly frustrated.

What can you do?

  • Explain your decision-making process to your American colleagues or co-workers so they know some action is taking place.

  • Include them in the process as much as possible, without, however, burdening them with redundant requests for reports.

  • Let them know that when consensus is built, things will move quickly so they need to be ready to take quick action at that time.

  • Share your culture's view on risk, so they understand the need for analysis.

  • Help others from your company understand the American market and business style.

  • Find a way to strike a happy medium between the two cultural approaches, taking the best of both if possible.

  • If your company is trying to "act local," it needs to allow more decision making to take place at the local level. This not only gives the company an ability to respond quickly to the local market's needs and desires, but it also increases the satisfaction of the people working in or with it.

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Rowland & Associates is a premier cross-cultural consulting firm, providing essential international business skills since 1985. Our passion is bringing intercultural business success through heightened insight and agility. We believe that bold steps with exceptional preparation can create dynamic solutions.

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