February 27 2008
I'm not entirely sure why I'm writing this. In theory, my 48 hours in Munich was the same as many business trips -- a faceless chain hotel, meeting rooms, transport. But there is something magical here -- even the Starbucks barista at the München Hauptbahnhof yesterday morning seemed sparkly. The Detusche Bahn clerk who discounted my 40 Euro fine from 2006 down to 12,50, without my asking (or even speaking German), countered the ten minutes we lost arguing with a parking garage attendant over a lost ticket worth 2 euros. The apparently-homeless person in the S-bahn station who offered to help me figure out which ticket I needed (!) for the ride back out to the airport, and asked for nothing. The noodle bar chef at Munich airport who seemed genuinely concerned that I enjoy my very late lunch today, checking twice with me to make sure I was enjoying it (I was).
Perhaps my mood attitude is lightened by seeing so many familiar faces. It is true that many of the Lotus sales team in Germany are new to the Lotus brand or to IBM. But there are also colleagues who have been Loti for 10, 12, 16 years. Even Kurt Fessel, who left IBM last year, turned up at dinner last night at the Hofbräukeller. The price of the daily special has gone up to Eur 5,55, but the beer was, and I imagine always will be, great.
(Added a few hours later) It dawns on me that one of the reasons that I've enjoyed this trip is that Germany has gone non-smoking. In the bar last night, this was one of the first things I noticed -- I could see the rest of the place!
I spent a few hours with the German sales team this morning, taking them through an update from Lotusphere as well as product news and reports from the field. There I learned about internal challenges (what Jens-Uwe Fimmen called "a legal-IBM-bureaucracy problem") and team successes. I learned that Dr. Peter Schütt and Stefan Krüger have started a Lotus Germany blog, auf Deutsch, to get the word out about initiatives and activities in the local market. I heard something Maja Kumme say something about sushi and CeBIT, though my lack of German aural comprehension got in the way of that one.
Then I headed to a customer meeting. It turns out that local business partner edcom was there as well. Wolfgang Meixner, having read here on the blog that I wasn't going to have free time for ein bier, decided that I needed a bierstein from Hofbräuhaus, symbolically representing the next beer I need to have in Munich. Thank you Wolfy, and also for asking about my father, three years after our visit.
I also received a nice gift from the customer I visited in Kempten yesterday, a clever computer mouse and other schwag. But the gift of that meeting, as well as all of this week's, was having so many great conversations with customers, partners, and coworkers. I'm still learning, even on what (I think) is my seventeenth visit to Germany. Looking forward to number 18.