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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It all begins with understanding your processes and goals
I personally have experienced situations where you are overwhelmed with work, are aware of the steps that could be performed to improve your efficiency but are "too busy" to make the improvements to relieve your burden. Appeals to superiors to be allowed to make the effort are generally met with, "after we complete this phase", but unfortunately another similar phase...
Published on December 9, 2009 by Charles Ashbacher

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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting insights, mostly repetitive
I realized early on that the book probably wasn't a good fit for me, but skimmed through the rest to try to get some insights. Here's a quick synopsis and perhaps some takeaways.

The author starts out by talking about how his general views on the universe have shifted from a "we're all one" free-love view to an understanding that the world generally operates in...
Published on March 26, 2011 by Anthony Panozzo


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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting insights, mostly repetitive, March 26, 2011
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This review is from: Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Hardcover)
I realized early on that the book probably wasn't a good fit for me, but skimmed through the rest to try to get some insights. Here's a quick synopsis and perhaps some takeaways.

The author starts out by talking about how his general views on the universe have shifted from a "we're all one" free-love view to an understanding that the world generally operates in predictable ways. The author worked 100+ hour weeks for an extended period of time, and in a time of desperation realizes that he must systematize his business. This takes sixty pages to develop.

Next, he explains the process of how to create principles, vision statement, and working procedures for a company from scratch were well laid out and clear. I liked the fact that the operating rules that he set out are open for revision at any time by any employee, and generally immediately revised. It lent a feeling of continuous improvement to the process that he laid out.

He discusses figuring out when you work best and work then on second quadrant items (of the Covey sense.)

The author continually cites Occam's Razor, but uses it in a very loose sense. You will hear of "fire-killing" and the "Work The System method" and being "outside and slightly elevated" probably about a hundred times each throughout the book.

Very little attention is paid to lifestyle design throughout the book. I thought it might contain a little more based on the jacket summary.

One of the irritating things was that the book focused only on one business, the author's business. It is a call center business, one that has a well-established business model and client interaction pattern. There does not seem to be a whole lot of creativity on the part of the employees, so it seems like it lends itself especially well to systemization. The author's main problem seems to be how hard it is to find drug-free employees that show up to work. Other businesses would have fewer clearly definable working procedures. Nonetheless, I feel like I did get a good feel for how certain aspects of any business (billing, payroll, etc.) could be more formalized, and what the benefits were (fewer mistakes, less time spent overall.)

Perhaps it's an age/generation gap, but some things seemed really out of touch or strange. The author preaches about removing alcohol and caffeine, and getting exercise and good nutrition a bit too much. I agree with these things, and I guess he's saying the body is a system like anything else. But it's repetitive.

There are some terrible examples, like seeing the way that toilet paper can be placed on the roller. He says: "it is a nearly 50-50 split with a slight advantage to those who chose 'top.' This means most people don't think one way or the other about the insertion of the roll in the dispenser. (Or, implausibly, one-half of the population is adamant that the roll be inserted one way and the other half of the population the other way.)...The important point is that it illustrates the lack of innate systems thinking by the vast majority of people." To me, there seem to be several fallacies here. Why could it not be that some have considered the problem, others have strong opinions, and others still don't care about it one way or another? What is the ROI of the roll orientation?

Generally, there's a bit too much pep talk and repetition for my liking.

I don't feel like I learned much that I didn't understand from common sense. Perhaps it's my science/engineering background that leads me to think that many of the "insights" were trivial. Overall, I would recommend reading a different book to learn more about systems thinking. Hope this helps someone thinking about getting this book.

Edit: 2014-03-05 - changed review from two to three stars. In retrospect I think I was overly harsh when reviewing. Also toned down the title a little. Left the body as it was for context and since I have since given away the book.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It all begins with understanding your processes and goals, December 9, 2009
This review is from: Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Hardcover)
I personally have experienced situations where you are overwhelmed with work, are aware of the steps that could be performed to improve your efficiency but are "too busy" to make the improvements to relieve your burden. Appeals to superiors to be allowed to make the effort are generally met with, "after we complete this phase", but unfortunately another similar phase often follows. In many cases the constant inefficiencies lead to a total system failure.
Carpenter nearly experienced a total failure in his company, a telephone service provider called Centratel. After acquiring the struggling company, he spent years solving crisis after crisis, working 100+ hour weeks and yet many weeks barely managed to meet payroll. Finally, necessity being so often the mother of invention, Carpenter reached the level of crisis where he had to make dramatic changes or see the company die. His solution was to look at Centratel as a system with choke points, feedback mechanisms and points of dramatic improvement.
After taking the time to document operations and procedures, Centratel experienced dramatic improvement in quality and quantity of service. The new employee management procedures led to an improvement in the quality of new hires, greater retention of employees and an increase in morale. All of this translated into increased revenue and profits as well as a sharp decrease in the length of his workweek. As has been documented so many times, reducing the number of work hours increased the productivity per week as the increase in quality more than compensated.
Giving all due respect to Carpenter and his achievements at Centratel, his experiences are not new to the overall understanding of management science. The classic example of this is the British experience in World War II, where after the outbreak of the war factory workers patriotically volunteered to work long hours. After the brief initial increase in productivity, there was a dramatic drop and the solution was to mandate a limit in the number of hours in the workweek. The lowered length of the workweek brought productivity back up.
Nevertheless, the advice in this book is sound, for the simple reason that it is rarely possible to improve productivity until you understand what it is that you are doing. This is accomplished by fully documenting all operations; the act of doing it forces you to understand them, the first step in the repair process. Considering what you do a set of systems is a workable perspective, just not the only viable one.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Work the system or the system will work you, October 19, 2009
This review is from: Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Hardcover)
Sam Carpenter has brought all the main principles that will lead to success in your work and life together in one book. Some books will change your mind this book will change your life if you apply what it teaches. The author shows that our entire world operates based on systems, from nature to the human body to successful businesses 99.9% of things go right when the system works. The problem is when you or a business are not on a system you spend your time running around putting out "fires" and "whacking moles" instead of solving the root of the problem."... orderliness and attention to detail are the roots of peace". "...disorder--always leads to desperation". The problems you encounter are really caused by system failure. Your job is to create systems that cause you to get the results you desire in life and at work. If you are a manager or business owner these systems must be documented on paper and be a working and changing tool that all employees agree on. When problems arise you determine what system failed and correct it. You should spend the majority of your time examining and tweaking systems to perfection, this is the best use of your time. Surprisingly,..."outright mistakes and random errors account for only a small percentage of total error. Most problems stem from nonexistent system management and show themselves as errors of omission". Sam Carpenter will show you how to create a document that expresses your purpose, and then create principles and systems that lead to the accomplishment of that purpose.
The book is absolutely packed with excellent life and business insights that will take you to the next level in your life, career, or business if you follow them. I have had a great twenty year career in business management and wish I would have had this book when I started. I was always successful when I put systems in place that operate with or with out me but was unsuccessful trying to just make things happen by my mere presence and experience. The beauty is that the system principles also work for losing weight, relationships, and for me stock trading and investing. Five stars for this book, it should sit on your shelf right next to the other books that have changed your life.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Deal...Not B School Theory, April 30, 2009
This review is from: Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Hardcover)
What a refreshing change. A business book written by a business-owner. A real world practitioner. Not an ivory tower, "B School" theorist looking to test an idea or attract consulting clients. I run my own business, employ 25 people and deliver business and marketing consulting services to insurance agency principals. I appreciate the challenges of getting a growing business to run on systems, both for myself and my clients.

Last year, I bought 600 of copies of this book and sent them as a gift to my best clients. I'm still running into clients at seminars and workshops throughout the country who are thanking me for the positive impact this book had on their lives. Any serious entrepreneur who values their time and wants to get their business to the next level should put this book on their "read now" list.

Everyone familiar with Michael Gerber's E Myth will appreciate how this book takes the same premises and delivers a practical Action Plan that works. Sam's story confirms the truth of his message and provides both inspiration and a useful road map throughout the book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all about the questions you ask yourself, April 24, 2013
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I think everybody who's read a few business books has heard about "working ON your business instead of just working IN your business." However Sam Carpenter drives the point home in a way I've not seen done before. Most importantly, he shifted the questions I ask myself.

Because of this book, now every time I find myself putting out a fire or reacting to a painful situation... being confronted by an unhappy customer about a ball that's been dropped... I ask, "What broken or non-existent system allowed this to happen?"

The most persuasive part of this book is the contrast between Carpenter's frenetic life before vs. the serenity after. And the efficiency.

Temperamentally, I'm not the type of person who is going to spend hours and hours perfecting logistical details and documenting things. I am a creative person, a visionary and an alchemist. But it still must be done. What that means for me is that *I* of all people need to craft the core manifestos, the guiding documents that comprise Sam Carpenter's system. Then I can see to it that the more methodical people on my team are in fact working the system.

Most business owners don't fully appreciate how many of their employees will, so to speak, mount the toilet paper roll with the front side facing back until the very end of time. Stupidly and unthinkingly. UNLESS AND UNTIL SOMEONE MAKES THEM DO IT RIGHT. Most employees will stumble and bumble through broken systems and it will never, ever occur to them to stop and fix them, let alone create new ones.

Only an enlightened owner will ever see to it that that happens. Carpenter does what so few other books had ever done, which was SELL ME on the benefits of giving this my attention.

Carpenter also expresses the proper philosophy of an engineer, which is that everything in the world is operating exactly as it was designed to operate, with 100% efficiency... so if you don't like how it's operating, change the design. What a rare attitude.

Now the question I'm asking myself is:

"What broken or non-existent system, once repaired and fully in place, will relieve me from having to suffer with my other broken and non-existent systems?"
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Get to the point of sale quick, please, November 12, 2011
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Qiang ZHOU (Diamond Bar, CA) - See all my reviews
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If I had no high expectation of this book, I would have rated it 3 stars.

There are so many long windy stories and analogies in the book which add little value to author's points.

The book itself violates what the author promotes.
1. One does not have to spend so much time in order to "get it", if the author gives it straight.
2. Sometimes, the author scratches a topic and tell you "more later". Where is the POS attitude?
3. "intentionally" repetition does not jive with Ockham's razor that author loves so much.

Author is clearly a disciple of Steve Covey (me too) and what he said in the book are valuable and insightful. However, it is not delivered in a good package.

Author has to chisel away the unnecessary material relentlessly (not everyone will be enamored with author's incessantly reference to his own business and personal experience). Please improve the ink to information ratio!

For those uninitiated, the gist of the book is:
1. Don't work on symptoms, but work on systems generate symptom. Do not be a producer, but be a helper to make producers more effective.
2. Bias towards action. Be proactive.
3. Plan - Do - Check - Evaluate - Improve.
4. Ruthlessly organized. Things has their place, Business has their time.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Systems Theory in Practise, April 11, 2009
This review is from: Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Hardcover)
"Work the System - The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less."

My instant reaction was to reject the book based on the title. I am a work ethic guy. I reject get rich quick and short cutters. I wrongly assumed this was one of those books. It is not.

I actually love competing with companies and people who lack work ethic. Not so sure I would want to compete with those with good systems though.

The gist of the book is "Its all about the systems you build to support your business". Spend your time working and perfecting them.

Carpenter breaks the systems down into 3 different areas.

1 - Defining your Strategic Objective. I might call this goals.

2 - Then create a set of Principles. Principles could be considered to be corporate culture. I have often said that a CEO should not focus on doing all the decision making but on culture so that decision get made with the right logic and thought. Coach on culture but let people make decisions.

3 - Then the book moves to specific procedures. And documenting them well.

The part of the book that focuses on procedures is very similar to Gerbers eMyth and the principles those books tout. What I like a lot more about Carpenter is he is not saying he is the sole genius and you need to make every job so mindless you can hire a non thinking monkey to do it. He encourages feedback on the systems from everyone.

Work the System definitely applies to business but also can be applied to personal life. Things flow more smoothly if we have good systems in place and if we constantly perfect them.

The book's points and are valid. Carpenter puts it all together with a very interesting book. He tells his personal story of working for years from dawn to dusk and getting no where. And how, in desperation, he changed his approach from "doing" to "working on the system". And how that turned his business and life around.

I usually do not rave about books I read. One way I judge if a book is good is if I actually take action as a result of reading it. I love this book and have taken action as a result of reading it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get a system, work it and success will follow., October 8, 2009
This review is from: Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Hardcover)
The author describes his background and evolution into an effective business person. Most all businesses can use the information in this book. We waste a good deal of time doing all sorts of things --- most of them non-critical to marketing or the actual making of money. That's why we need a system and then we need to work that system. Your business can become orderly and disciplined --- more important, profitable --- if you get a system and put it to work.

The truth is, you can actually work less and earn more if you put some of the tasks that take so much time on autopilot. Moreover, you'll discover where to put your focus. I know from my own businesses this is critical. So much a business person does is totally non-productive. This book will be a life-saver.

Highly recommended.

- Susanna K. Hutcheson
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For All Entrepreneurs, April 17, 2009
This review is from: Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Hardcover)
I have run my own business for 7 years and I always thought that I was a very organized and focused person. However, after reading Sam's book, I realized I needed to go to the next level. I was lacking the right systems in place to expand my business and move it in the right direction. I was becoming stressed, over worked, and spread to thin with all of my responsibilities ( I was whacking a lot of moles). It was a harsh reality to step back and look at myself as Sam explained exactly what I would need to do to grow my business. I have now started the process and I am so grateful for the direction and mindset I learned in his book. I am so excited with what the future holds and ready to implement all of the systems he shared. I am confident that I will be a better owner, consultant and person. Thank you Sam!
________________________________________
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Changer!, November 23, 2012
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I've owned a small business for over 10 years, and have struggled since day 1. I'm even a graduate from a top business school and have read well over 200 business books on my own(I'm a bit of a marketing junkie). While I've learned a lot from reading other books, I'm actually become quite proficient at gaining new customers and driving the top line...over the years growth has only seemed to amplify my problems with cash flow, managing staff, and all the other constant headaches that many small business owners suffer from. This book single handedly changed EVERYTHING for me. It's truely been the missing puzzle piece that I've been looking for all these years.

If you're into reading about marketing or small business you've probably come across the book The E-Myth. While that is also a wonderful read, "Work the System" is the E-Myth on crack! (In a good way). While the E-Myth may inspire you to build you business around systems and working "ON your business, not just IN your business", for me it stopped short of teaching me HOW to accomplish that exactly. "Work the System" will guide you step-by-step in learning how to systemize and document LITERALLY every single task, job, or activity that goes on in your business. Initially, that may sound like a really un-natural and unrealistic way to run a business...too robotic right? That's what I thought too, until I started doing it and it's not that way at all. Instead, systemization of your business will yeild you (and your staff if you have one) more peace of mind, better results, more consitant results and best of all MORE MONEY because you'll be operating at maximum efficiency at all times.

While "Work the System" will very clearly paint a picture of how amazing your business will be once run by systems, and exactly step-by-step HOW to create those systems....the downside is that it will require some time time and effort to actually create those systems. It can be done for ZERO dollars though and the return on investment (of time) will be EXPONENTIAL to say the least.

My results:
I read this book exactly 1 year ago. It took me about 3 months to systemize the major "tasks" in my business and another 3 months to fine-tune and create many smaller systems BUT I went from working 60 hours a week working on location at my business, making less than 100K per year to 100% being freed from day-to-day hassles at my business. Now, I only work about 2 hours a day from my home office, take weekends off completely, and only go in to my actual business for a 1-hour weekly staff meeting. My profits have also doubled, the craziest part of brining systemization to my life is that it has allowed me to actually apply all the different strategies I've been learning about (remember those 200 busiess/marketing books I've read in the past). I will be making over $200K this year and I have plenty of room for growth in the future.

This book has allowed me to turn my business into what feels like my own "printing press" for cash. I'm only 30 years old, have a businss that nets over $200K per year while I work from home less than 10 hours per week. I feel like I have found ultimate freedom and joy in my business and my life...and I owe it all to "Work The System".

Oh, and you might be wondering about the sort of business I own. I own a dance school in a small town with a population less than 80,000 people. Dance studio's are historically known as poorly run, money-pit "hobby" businesses. So if "Work the System" can yeild such amazing results for a small town dance studio...what could it do for your business?

Do yourself a favor and "Work the System"!
Cheers,
Megan
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