On two consecutive days, on October 17 and 18, 2023, participants from Ukrainian and German municipal utilities had the opportunity to learn about potential pitfalls in cooperation with their respective partners.
In a session entitled "Tips and Tricks for Cooperation", Ukrainian Dr. Volodymyr Motyl gave an online training for the staff of the solidarity partnerships between German and Ukrainian municipal utilities. Dr. Motyl has graduated in Germany and has been working for a German company for 17 years. He already coordinated and managed many German-Ukrainian projects, especially in the field of water management.
In his presentation he reported on stereotypes, differences in mentality, work-life balance, time management and planning, rules and legislation, corporate culture and hierarchy as well as communication and collaboration.
International cooperations can fail or lead to misunderstandings and frustrations if the cultural differences and different working methods are not sufficiently known.
On the Ukrainian side, for example, the very first face-to-face meeting serves as an orientation and a chance to get to know each other. The idea is that a positive relationship – trust and sympathy – must first be established before talking about concrete steps of cooperation. German project partners, on the other hand, rather prefer to get to the point immediately. They want to define goals and to agree on concrete planning steps first, and only talk about personal issues after the work is done. When expectations of the process are so different, irritations are likely to arise.
Ukrainian companies usually plan for a period of one year and normally do not draw up strategies designed for several years or even decades. Under the current conditions of war, this is useful. They now benefit from their great flexibility, which offers more scope for
situational and creative action. This way of planning may be unfamiliar from a German perspective, but it creates opportunities for cooperation that are better adapted to unpredictable circumstances in these difficult times.
Hierarchical levels are more pronounced within Ukrainian companies. Therefore, the management level, i.e. directors or mayors, should always be involved in any important meetings and decision-making. On the other hand, they are more flexible in their scheduling compared to the German management level.
In fact, there is no term for "appointment" in Ukrainian. An appointment is a point of reference in terms of time, but not necessarily a fixed date. Appointments should therefore be confirmed by phone shortly beforehand.
Whereas in Germany business correspondence is conducted almost exclusively via e-mail, in Ukraine, business communication is also handled via messenger services like Viber. WhatsApp or other messenger services, on the other hand, are hardly ever used for official and business purposes in Germany.
Even though the lecture mainly pointed out the differences in working practice, Dr. Motyl made clear that his remarks should be understood as an orientation and should not be expected to apply to all given situations. It always depends on the personal contact – he emphasized.
One participant explained it in a nutshell: "It is important to keep an open dialogue. Once you have found a personal level of cooperation, you can also master small pitfalls and misunderstandings."
A special recognition for the Utility Partnerships was also the fact that the director of the Ukrainian water association Ukrvodokanalekolohiya, Mr. Shkin, took his time to meet the Ukrainian colleagues. In his welcoming address, he underlined that the partnerships represent an important contribution to German-Ukrainian cooperation in the water sector.