Action vs. Planning

A recent conversation with the Director of a Finnish organization pointed out that decision-making and negotiation styles characteristic of Israeli culture always baffled him.  Israelis tend to operate in a “fast and furious” style with a zero-sum mentality and only one purpose in mind: to win, even if it means win-lose. In contrast, the Finns are not always risk-comfortable and need time to understand and process the details, thereby requiring more time.

Israeli and Finnish business and negotiation styles often collide, causing misunderstandings. In the Israeli culture, for example, “a decision to go forward” is simply an agreement to continue discussions. In Israel this is well understood, but in Finnish culture, careful planning and being meticulous about details and facts, while focusing on milestones is inherent in committing to a project and going forward. If a product is being launched, they will not move forward until they are certain that the product is marketable, sellable and profitable. That said, once a decision is reached, they are committed, motivated and efficient in reaching a successful conclusion.

Israeli and Finnish decision-making styles are clearly at odds; the Finns go from Micro to Macro whereas the Israelis first agree on the Macro (the big picture, the end result) and then work out the details. The inherent dissonance can easily and unintentionally impact many aspects of building a positive business relationship.

Fortunately, one can learn to understand how cultures relevant to business process their information, organize data, make decisions and interpret facts, and by applying best practices, one can encourage more positive and effective business relationships.

Your roadmap to successful negotiations:

Some cultural dimensions to keep in mind:

  • It’s all about values – Values are the foundation of every culture and they are the beliefs that drive and justify behavior.  Values must be understood and respected in order to move forward through all negotiation stages.
  • Win/win or win/lose –A critical factor in determining how to proceed in negotiations productively in either a collaborative or competitive climate.
  • Risk Comfortable/Risk Avoidant Orientation: Identifying how a culture manages risk in decision is paramount where one culture may avoid decisions when not enough information is available while the other may be comfortable taking a risk with “just enough” information.
  • Process/results oriented: Process-oriented cultures value deductive logic and require meticulous planning, identifying milestones and solutions to predicted problems.  Results oriented cultures, by contrast, favor a more improvisational approach, using inductive reasoning to justify a decision when limited information is available. In cultures where the process is equally as important as results, you will do well to adhere to working out details at their pace, despite an inclination to results.

Finland boasts a growing start-up scene and within it, a vibrant entrepreneurial setting has transformed how some business is conducted. Entrepreneurs are looking for growth rather than stability, which by its nature requires a fast-paced and dynamic conducting style. This influences many organizations to become more focused on results rather than processes, and therefore frames decision-making styles, making them much quicker and efficient.

In summary, comprehending the building blocks of a culture is key to understanding the differences in decision-making and negotiation styles among them. A greater and more in-depth understanding can only help to strengthen business relations and improve productivity.