Impasses, Bottlenecks and Deadlocks
In his classic When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures British linguist Richard D. Lewis illustrated well how different cultures communicate. Lewis’ work included crafting diagrams looking at a number of countries. Below are the German, American, and Korean perspectives—no one perspective is right or wrong—just different. In the diagrams below, you can see how groups may hit an impasse. Frankly, my role over the years has been to recognize when one side hits a bottleneck or deadlock and then to move the talks past that point.
An example comes to mind.
Over time negotiations in what had been a very promising partnership lapsed from an agreement to be executed by year end to a rather long dragged out ordeal. Specifically, a bottleneck developed each time revisions in content were proposed by the Korean team. These changes needed to reviewed and okayed by the American working level team before the Korean team would submit to their leadership. Once the Korean leadership approved, the proposed changes then had to be reviewed by the American teams legal counsel. As one can imagine, if the American counsel had edits, the entire process would restart.
I analyzed the situation that had been occurring for months and as Step One suggested bringing all those involved together in weekly conference calls to address the major concerns. A second call was also scheduled as needed for the legal counsels.
As a Step two, I pressed both sides to recognize that the relationship was very positive and sound despite obvious frustration and doubts that an agreement would ever be signed—To ease the bottleneck I stressed the need to compromise and to minimize future revisions in order to achieve a signed agreement. With all parties collaborating, the project progressed to a signing in a timely manner.
 When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures, Richard D. Lewis Paperback, Third Edition Published September 29th 2005 by Nicholas Brealey Publishing (first published 1996).
Copyright 2014 BCW