Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less (Revised 3rd Edition, 2019) Hardcover – October 1, 2011
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''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.''
--Steve Burns, Amazon Top 1000 reviewer
''Better than Good to Great, the next Best Seller Business Book.''
--GLR, Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer. 5 stars
''Very vivid details captivates this reader. Well done indeed!''
--G.W., Amazon Top 500 Reviewer. 5 stars
''This book will be a life-saver. Highly recommended.''
--SHA, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer. 5 stars
From the Author
There will be a mechanical adjustment in the way you see your world, and when this profound shift occurs, systems Methodology will make irrefutable sense, and your work and life will never be the same. I like to call this mini-awakening getting it, and I describe what it is and how to achieve it in Part One.
The Nutshell Premise? Your life is a collection of individual systems.
To whom is this book intended? It's for anyone who runs a business, from the founder of a brand new mom-and-pop start-up to the seasoned CEO of a multinational. At either extreme and in-between, the tenets apply uniformly because life's fundamental mechanics work the same, all the time, everywhere. This is about acquiring a better view of reality's universal simple mechanics; to viewing the machinations of your world with more precision.
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The book is largely a personal story of how the author turned his business around from something he was putting 80+ hours a week into (and still always on the verge of collapse) to a thriving entity that he only needs to tweak now with a handful of hours. His key insight came on the eve of near-certain failure when he realized he needed to stop working "in" his business and shift to working "on" it. He recognized that developing systems and processes would empower his employees to do the work consistent with his vision. The result is a very healthy company, a happy founder, and happy employees.
The book is enjoyable to read and the author makes a persuasive argument for why every business should be run this way. The way to go about doing this is to create three guiding documents: the Strategic Objective, General Operating Principles, and Working Procedures. Once these are in place, a rigid adherence and occasional modification are all that is needed. The author adds that this methodology can also be used if you are an employee (instead of a business owner) and even in your personal life (although Working Procedures are not needed in this case).
That's the good news. The bad is that there really isn't any instruction given on *how* one would create these all-important documents. It's just the same message over and over: you need to do this. The entire book is dedicated to convincing you that you have a problem and that he has the solution. Want to apply this solution to your own business and/or life? That's where the author's array of coaching, software, and speaking engagements come in, all helpfully described in the numerous appendices.
In fairness, he does provide the documents he developed for his company in the appendices for you to use as a template (or inspiration). So, if you own a telephone answering service, you're in luck. Otherwise, you've got some work ahead of you. It's somewhat ironic that in a book about systems, the author does not provide a system to help you craft your own documents.
I'm giving it three stars and I still recommend getting it. It's an enjoyable read and will certainly help you get some new ideas. That's probably worth the price of the book. Just be aware that new ideas is about all you're going to get from this. It's mostly an introduction to systems thinking and an advertisement for the author's products and services. I plan to read another book in the hopes of getting some guidance on implementation.
I just found these ideas could have been condensed into a smaller book that keyed on the ideas and wasn't so repetitious.
My only gripe was that in several passages, I was forced to stop reading to find the definition of uncommon words that Sam used occasionally throughout the book but it was no more than 1% of the content of the book.
I found that kinda Ironic, Sam constantly promotes the concept of "Off-The-Street" simplicity, but the book didn't quite follow that mantra.
But I would definitely recommend this great book to anyone who seeks to understand not only business systems, but systems in general!
I will definitely be reading this book again in the near future!
Top international reviews
I have already started to implement much of what is proposed and early signs are positive.
I can't put my finger on it, but "Work the System" seemed to tie it all together in a way I could instantly take action on. The sample documents included in the back of the book were incredibly helpful. And the way Sam Carpenter (author) addresses a lot of the objections and challenges you'll likely face during implementation was also very encouraging.
And - unexpectedly - I love the fact he just says it out loud (and I'm paraphrasing) "This is a lot of work, and some of your employees will push back." Isn't it refreshing to have a book be honest about the time, work, and struggle involved in making a change? I was concerned when I picked up the book it would be a little on the "Get Rich Tomorrow" kool-aid train... it *does* say on the cover "The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less".... I've heard that a zillion times now. But it's rare for an author to so explicitly acknowledge that it's a ton of work - 3 to 6 months - to get his method in place. But he also makes it obvious that that 3-6 month investment is life-changing, and I believe it.
Why I'm giving this book only 4 stars instead of 5....
1. the first 60% of the book is VERY repetitive. Wish he would cut the fat out and make it more direct. But despite that, the payoff of this book is so substantial I can (mostly) forgive the filler.
2. you *can* get this book for free, legally, from the author's website. That being said, I am glad I bought the hardcover on Amazon. That tiny $20 investment was enough for me to feel invested in the book, thus getting the tremendous value this book has to offer. When things are free it's too easy to push them off until tomorrow.... and we all know that tomorrow never comes.
So if I could give this book a 4.999 rating, I would. It's an outstanding buy, where the message and value far, far, far outshadow the few foibles.
- - - -
I read a few of the other reviews on this book and saw a few comments like, "only talks about one business as an example", and "not enough about life managment/personal system work", and "is too repetitive".
In my opinion, here is why the author has been repetitive (on purpose). He "get's it" and wants to actually change people and businesses through his book (to the point where "readability" takes second place to "utility"). It is obvious that he has gone to great lengths to 1) describe the process of learning the systems mindset & cover some how-to's of implimentation, but more important 2) is dead set on doing everything in his power to create the change in the reader that needs to occur in order to go about using this book long term, and changing their life and business. This is the reason for the repitition (lot's of examples, from a whole bunch of different angles - east vs. west norms, peace/love and the 60's, bands, businesses, life styles etc) . The book is written for the business owner who needs to change behaviour of him/herself and their team, not to the savvy educated reader that wants to understand concepts and then write a review and move on.
In my opinion, using one business in particular as an example, one that the author has actually grown, improved and began to run under management, is much better than using a bunch of businesses in a study (even if the study is rigorous and controlled). This "been there and done that" confidence, from a very private enterprise perspective is clear, and the insights and perspective are refreshing and empowering. For example, "it is going to take time, but you can make great progress in 18 months", "hundred fold returns as you put in the effort of drafting the Strategic objective and other related docs..." [quoting from memory]. This is the kind of truth that gets busy owners to break inertia and actually get down to working on this stuff.
I like the business focus because this is the main case study - the company. The added health & lifestyle stuff is great because it is the life that most owners can relate with...I chatted with the owner of a company this morning and as we toured his facility I could just see how the stress was taking its toll on him. In my opinion, the author give just enough on health and lifestyle systems, keeping the main focus on changing the business.
When starting to work on systems and/or just increasing a business owners maturity around leadership and her/his company, I tell them to download the audio and listen to it all the way through. Required reading. This is the kind of book that I'll strongly encourage my kids to read, before the age of 18, to add to their entrepreneurial and leadership perspective.
It's does repeat itself a lot, and doesn't need to be anywhere near as long to get across the basic princiiples and message - but still worth the time to go through it.
- if you prefer audio, you can download it for free from his website :)