Great Expectations – Greater Frustrations

There are many jobs that are demanding.  Some are demanding physically, some are demanding emotionally and some are demanding intellectually – often a combination.  Regardless of your profession, almost all of them have one thing in common – when you are done for the day, you are able to set aside your work and enjoy time thinking of, and doing, other things.

Being an Industrial and Systems Engineer (ISE) is a tough career.  Not just because the work itself is challenging, but an Industrial or Systems Engineer can never leave their work at work.  It’s ingrained in who they are, it’s part of their core – their genetic makeup.  They can no more set it aside than a bee can set aside collecting pollen – it’s what they do, always.

Unlike a carpenter, a doctor, a mechanic, a lawyer, or even another type of engineer who can manage to set aside their professions when they clock out, Industrial and Systems Engineers are always looking at “how things work” and always trying to figure out how to improve them.

Industrial and Systems Engineers try to understand the value of everything that goes-on around them and try to improve all of it, always.  And when they don’t understand the value and they can’t change it (for whatever reason), it drives them towards insanity!

A simple exercise – Consider, if you will your morning routine.  From the moment you wake-up to the moment you exit the front door, how long does it take you?  30 minutes? An hour?  Longer?

Now; consider you are awakened by your golf-buddy who is there to pick you up.  How many minutes will it take you to exit the front door?  10 minutes?  5 minutes?  Less?

What you did was to cut-out every step from your morning “process” that did not drive value to your buddy – your “customer” in delivering you out the front door.  You cut-out; checking email, breakfast, watching the news, reading the newspaper – maybe even freshening-up in the bathroom (depends upon how far away the golf course is).

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I’m a guy and I am using a guy’s routine as an example.  I have not the foggiest idea of the mysterious morning routine of women, except anecdotally – but it seems to take a lot longer than that of men.

The steps you kept are the steps your buddy would approve (maybe even require) and for which he will tolerate waiting; getting dressed (so long as you didn’t waste too much time making sure your clothes matched), getting your wallet (your buddy isn’t going to pay your way), grabbing your golf clubs (required for task), and perhaps allow the personal indulgence of brushing your teeth (so long as it’s very quick – none of this “two minutes” stuff).

Only an Industrial and Systems Engineer would consider these processes in these terms. And they think about everything in these terms always.

Think about it… Most of life’s irritations are caused by the failure of a process; by improper use, by inadequate design, by lack of imagination.  And most can be avoided – see below for a few examples I am sure everyone has experienced problem/solution.

Problem: Can’t find your tools.

Solution: Perform a 5-S exercise to ensure all tools are where they should be when not in use.

Example: There is no greater irritation in the world then starting a home project on the weekend that should take 30 minutes and having it take four-hours because you can’t find your tools.  This problem is usually minimal if you live alone, but if you have sons – fuhgeddaboudit.  You will probably find the missing tools when you mow the lawn.

Problem:  Traffic Jams

Solution:  Single-Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED).  Perform construction work at night.

Example:  We all know this scene.  A lane (or more) of traffic is closed on the highway during the heavy day-traffic so that crews can repaint the lines or fill a pothole.  Why not just do the work in the evenings from 10pm to 6am?  While I’m at it, why do folks linger in the passing lane and block the entire highway (don’t get me started on trucks)?

Problem: Discovering there is no toilet paper when needed

Solution: Employ a Kanban system that flags replenishment when the new roll is started.

Example: At almost every hotel you will stay, there is a roll in play, and there is a roll in back-up within arms’ reach.  When the back-up roll is deployed, a replacement is procured. Just replicate this practice at home.

Countless others…  There MUST BE A BETTER WAY!

Airport Security

I understand and appreciate the need for attempting to make air-travel safe from those evil-doers who would do evil – but There Must Be a Better Way.

For instance; I was born, raised and, until two years ago lived in Binghamton, New York – a smallish, post-peak, industrial town whose claim to fame is being the birthplace ofInternational Business Machines (IBM).  Down the street from me about seven houses away, lived one of my very good friends.  We went to school together from Kindergarten through High School Graduation.  We spent countless hours at each other’s homes, went onBoy Scout campouts at Tuscarora together, even attempted to float a raft down a river (it broke apart before we could get it in the water).  Of course, we knew each other’s families almost as well for having spent so much time together.

My friend’s sister (I’ll call her Lisa to protect the innocent), got a job working for the TSA, which stands for “Transportation and Safety Administration” (contraire to those who insist it actually means “Thousands Standing Around”), and is the United States Government Agency responsible for, in part, airport security.  Lisa was stationed at the Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM).  BGM is a very sleepy regional airport with an average of ONE flight – with no more than 25 passengers – arriving OR departing every hour.  Like I said, a sleepy little airport.

As such, there is only one TSA check-point and I would almost certainly see Lisa whenever I flew out of BGM.  We would start by exchanging friendly greetings.  Then we would start talking about our families and what we have been doing lately.  Of course, we would reminisce about the goings on in our younger days – regaling details that only we could possibly know.

Then she would ask for my Identification (usually my New York State Driver’s License) and then proceed to take a little flashlight and magnifying glass to make sure it was not a fake.

… Are You Kidding Me?  I mean, we know each other.  I gave her a form of identification, but she is “programed” to check that it’s not a fake.  I wonder if they are so “programmed” in their routine that they can’t see (or don’t look for) real “tells” of an evil-doer.

Starting a Business in Europe

I understand and appreciate the need for there to be a procedure for creating a company so that the government is made aware of the entity’s creation with the owners being identified, and the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved are made known and acknowledged – but There Must Be a Better Way.

For instance; I recently started a business in Germany, XONITEK Consulting Group International Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, or GmbH for short (with a MINIMUM share capital of €25,000 required) – and in Poland, XONITEK Consulting Group InternationalSpólka z ograniczona odpowiedzialnoscia, or Sp. z o.o. for short (with no minimum share capital required).  In both cases, the type of entity created is a company with limited liability – the same as a creating a Corporation in the United States.

In each case – from start to finish – the process took a little over four (4) months.  The processes and procedures involved were incredibly painful to endure, with mountains of paperwork (my being a citizen of the United States did not add much to the burden, a single notarized document and a photo-copy of my Unites States Passport in each case).

Let me tell you about my experience of starting a business in Germany.  Once the pre-planning, general terms, conditions and definitions were decided; we met at the German Notary’s office to review and finalize the documents.  Even though the documents were in English (a handy option), the Notary was required to read the documents aloud in front of all Shareholders.  This oratory exercise took almost an hour, during which, a couple of errors were identified.  It took another hour for the errors to be corrected, the new documents generated and returned to us.  I was very grateful when I was told he would not have to re-read the documents again – but of course, that just made me wonder why they had to be read in the first place.

For some reason which I could never quite understand, the company had to be formed and filed under a temporary name.  Once the company formation was accepted by the “Trade Office” (corporate control authorities) in Munich (where the company is seated), we could change it.  It was almost a month before we received notification from the Trade Office that our application had been accepted – now all we had to do was change the name.

There are a great many details which I am leaving out – including it taking a month to obtain a company bank account in Germany and the absurd “rules” (which were largely waived when pressed) – and which was in addition to the time it took to form the company.

Compare that to the last company I formed in the United States – a Limited Liability Company (LLC) formed in Wyoming.  The form for creating the Wyoming LLC is only TWO (2) PAGES long, in the form of a “pdf” which you can fill-out on-line in less than 15 minutes, and a required $100 fee.

… You can then go to the Internal Revenue Service website and get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) On-Line, which again takes less than 15 minutes and costs nothing.

Viola!  In less than an hour, I had formed a Wyoming Limited Liability Company.  It required no lawyers, no accountants, and no advisors of any sort.  There were no meetings, no conversations and no readings.  It didn’t require any “share capital” and it offers the same (even more) protections for shareholders than either the German GmbH or the Polish Sp. z o.o.  The annual “fee” for maintaining the Wyoming LLC is less than $100 (for the great majority of businesses) and there is no income tax.  Yes, maintaining your entity in Wyoming is businessman’s heaven – nearly zero red-tape, self-service, and minimal taxes and fees.
… There is a reason Dick Cheney lives in Wyoming, and it’s not because he loves horses.

Yet when I speak of this to Germans here in Germany about the lunacy and inefficiencies involved in the creation (and management) of business entities, they insist that the German GmbH must be a superior entity than the Wyoming LLC.  They don’t know how – but it’s gotta be!

I have countless such stories and have been left befuddled and wondering more times than I can count.

Yes, being an Industrial and Systems Engineer can be a maddening profession with border incursions into obsessive-compulsive.  The only way you will survive with your sanity intact (or at least tactfully insane), is to have a good sense of humour (preferably dry) and the healthy ability to vent.


Paris is the Founder and Chairman of the XONITEK Group of Companies; an international management consultancy firm specializing in all disciplines related to Operational Excellence, the continuous and deliberate improvement of company performance AND the circumstances of those who work there – to pursue “Operational Excellence by Design” and not by coincidence. 

He is also the Founder of the Operational Excellence Society, with hundreds of members and several Chapters located around the world, as well as the Owner of the Operational Excellence Group on Linked-In, with over 25,000 members.


For more information on Paris, please check his Linked-In Profile at:

Similar Posts