Negotiating the world successfully...

...and why respect, consideration and celebration of cultural differences make for a successful project.

In some topic areas, change is slow enough for the quality of a well written book to shine through years after it is out of print. We have been sharing a book from 1994 by Maxime Furkel and Jörg Kasberger: Mit französischen Geschäftspartnern gekonnt verhandeln (or 'negotiate successfully with French business partners'), ISBN 3-87052-747-1

We work in projects with many European partners. The European Remanufacturing Network project, for example, involved partners from Finland, Netherlands, France, Scotland, Germany and Sweden. It was led by Oakdene Hollins with staff from Irish and English cultural backgrounds. The €1.2 million project was successful in delivering outputs on time and in budget, but it was also enjoyable largely because we set out to recognise and celebrate our many cultural differences. In Grenoble, our French hosts insisted that we ate well at lunch time and took time to visit a celebrated restaurant in the city. In Scotland, everyone was introduced to Lagavulin, the famous single malt whisky, and in Kaunas, Lithuania, we discovered the determined ambition of women engineers to be part of modern Europe. They attended our presentations in large numbers, voicing their rejection of the centrally managed orthodoxy of the past and sharing their aspirations for a better future.

These days, Maxime Furkel is working in Brussels for Lexmark, a Chinese-owned business with operations around the world. His advice on the cultural differences and expectations that linger in the background when French and German business people meet still provide a useful reminder that an element of respect, consideration and celebration of cultural differences makes for a successful project.

Simon Strick