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Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less
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Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,404 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Work The System aims to convince people to change their fundamental perception of the world around them from a vision of an impenetrable, amorphous conglomeration, to one made up of individual linear systems, each of which can be improved and perfected. The reader is guided through the process of "getting" this new vision, and then through the specifics of applying it. It' ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Greenleaf Book Group Press
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The Art of Startup Fundraising by Alejandro CremadesThe Personal MBA by Josh KaufmanWork the System by Sam CarpenterBankable Business Plans by Edward G. RogoffCareer Forward by Brett Romero
Personal MBA
3rd out of 22 books — 21 voters
Zero to One by Peter ThielEquating the Equations of Insanity by Durgesh SatpathyThe Art of Startup Fundraising by Alejandro CremadesThe Lean Startup by Eric RiesSteve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Recommended Books for Startups
67th out of 112 books — 132 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 22, 2014 Marshall rated it it was ok
I really hated this book, and every bone in my body is telling me to give it one-star. I've decided to give it two stars, and I'll explain why later.

This book is about an epiphany the author had that everything in the world is a system. He says, once you "get it," your whole life will transform, and you'll never look at things the same way again. You'll start seeing systems everywhere you go. His way of making the readers "get it" is to keep repeating the premise in different ways, using anecdot
Pascal Wagner
Jul 03, 2013 Pascal Wagner rated it really liked it
I almost stopped reading/listening to this book... I'm glad I didn't. Up until chapter 5 I would have given it a 1 star. My advice is to skip to chapter five and start reading there. The first four chapters a plenty of fluff and don't really help you in terms of defining and creating a system.
Mar 29, 2010 E rated it it was amazing
Achieve your goals by managing your systems

Author and project engineer Sam Carpenter owns Centratel, a now-profitable telephone-answering company that spent 15 years barely surviving. When Carpenter was working 80-hour weeks struggling to make payroll, he was a basket case – nervous, tense and depressed. He got by on a lot of coffee and very little sleep. Then, he had a eureka moment. He suddenly grasped that many different systems directed his life and work. He saw that if he could control and
Feb 15, 2011 Robert rated it really liked it
Like most books of this style then content is really common sense but in many cases it is easily overlooked. This book focuses on the concept of breaking everything down into individual systems, then documenting and improving each part.

It is a simple message that after you finish reading the book you wonder how it could fill that many pages but there is plenty of other good information in and around the concept. In many cases it takes an outside perspective to actually help you see what needs to
Dec 28, 2009 Tami rated it it was amazing
Do your days flow smoothly? Do you have plenty of time to do your work and play too? No? Then, likely your days go something like this: putting out fires all day at work, trying to keep up with family responsibilities in a very short amount of time each night, then trying to get a little sleep before the day starts all over again.

Work the System tells us that the answer isn’t working harder or sleeping less. The problem is that we are looking at everything in one huge whole. We are trying to fi
James Eckman
Dec 08, 2015 James Eckman rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Written procedures will improve productivity and if you are a small to medium business owner struggling with chaos this might be the book for you. This may not work for larger cases, it's very top-down oriented. I would also caution people using it in a corporate environment that some company cultures reward their firefighters and not their quiet, competent counterparts, you may need to add act out emergency to your procedures!

Nothing earthshaking here if you've ever read Taylor, Deming or count
Feb 16, 2015 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading some of the other reviews I decided to power skim this book instead of do a thorough reading and I'm glad that I did that. The book was not awful, but I personally didn't find it enlightening or the vehicle through which a great epiphany was delivered. As other comments have said, this book can be boiled down and simplified into: everything is a system, so go improve it instead of reacting to the symptoms. The concrete examples provided to help guide the inexperienced along the jou ...more
May 06, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok
I was considering reviewing this book for my blog, but it never seemed to deliver on its promises. I was going to give it three stars, but I dropped a star after reading how the author tips less when a waiter serves him and then says, "Enjoy." A waiter can't learn anything from that, for one thing, but for another, it's arbitrary and mean. What are they supposed to do, read your mind? At least a negative review gives an author some constructive feedback.

Incidentally, I'm a professional organizer
May 02, 2015 S rated it liked it
The author is advocating that one should work on the underlying "mechanics" of a system, instead of firefighting outcomes. Having more control of your system is the only way to live more happily. The book provides a few actionable ideas: system documentation, point-of-sales principle, quiet courage, etc.

Some of those ideas may sound common sense at first, but we all know common senses are hard to apply sometimes. What I appreciate most are those stories/practical examples in the book.

Later chap
Annie Smidt
Sep 26, 2015 Annie Smidt rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2015
This book was recommended, amongst others, at a talk I went to at a conference, and, since I found what the speaker said interesting, I thought I'd check out the books he gathered ideas from. However, his 2-sentence summary of what's important from this book was way better than the book in its entirety.

The most interesting takeaway (and there are other points made in this book which I will not reiterate) is: When you think of everything as a system, often made up of subsystems, you can investig
Sean Goh
Jul 25, 2015 Sean Goh rated it really liked it
Because most of us spend our days dealing with bad results, we don’t think about submerging to a deeper place to make adjustments where the results are propagated. We humans just have a penchant for thrashing around on the surface, complicating what isn’t complicated.

They feel that they are called to rise above the mechanical world in order to focus on the spiritual. They believe the spiritual pursuit is noble and superior and shouldn’t be hampered by the restrictive job of dealing with petty is
C.A. Gray
Apr 07, 2015 C.A. Gray rated it liked it
Stopped listening to it about 2/3 of the way... interesting concept, but not something that really applies to my business of two people all that much. I just couldn't grasp how I'd take his systems mindset and translate it to a business that small. For a huge corporation, though, I can see how this insight (that every process should be broken down into systems so that it can become turnkey) would be critical and make all the difference in the world.
Jun 30, 2014 Eilleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never, never read books such as this. I read it for work. How to create a more organized, systematic approach to work, by really breaking down the systems we already use to accomplish our goals and then rebuilding them in more efficient ways. Who doesn't need that, both personally and professionally!? It's well written, helpful, and something I should have read a long time ago. Thinking of my friend Linda, who reads this genre frequently.
Oct 03, 2012 Bart rated it really liked it
I love this book and the author. Visit my blog for a free copy and a one hour interview between Sam (the author) and myself. And, reading the book won't change your life... you have to apply it and that might take a year.... but then you have freedom. BART BAGGETT
Dec 10, 2014 Cnd rated it really liked it
Didn't like the book. I scanned it, read a few chapter, it was really boring. The audio-book was much, much better for some reason. Loved the "hippie" context set-up in the beginning. Overall great message. Implemented many things immediately into my life and business.
Donal Phipps
Mar 27, 2013 Donal Phipps rated it liked it
Interesting ideas, but with hindsight I'd put the book down as soon as you get the systems thinking notion and are prepared to give it a go.
The rest of the book was redundant and slightly patronizing.
Jan 31, 2011 xdroot rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
quite simplistic but a powerful idea if one can make it a discipline. the book could have been 50% shorter.
Mar 31, 2014 Wayne rated it really liked it
Story telling used to share business experience. Enjoyed reading more than most business books
Bj Lee
Apr 20, 2014 Bj Lee rated it it was amazing
Great book for anyone who feels like there business is a bit too organic.
Els Dehaen
Nov 29, 2015 Els Dehaen rated it liked it
KT: "Who knows what that voice mail–inundated young man from the bicycle tour does for a living, but I tell you this: he is mismanaging things if his gig can’t proceed for a single week without his direct influence; if the slew of processes in which he is involved all come to a halt when he is not available. Yes, all those voice mail messages (and God only knows how many e-mail messages) attest to his status and importance, but in the bigger picture he is a slave to his job—and the people who de ...more
Dec 17, 2013 Mac rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Great book. What I've learned the most from it is you need to look at the world in general as a system and subsystem. In that way, you become an entrepreneur, finding ways to fix things and make them better. You'll learn how to manage people and your business overall by creating great manuals for everyone to follow. Take a step back and look at your business, identify the ROOT cause of each problem, write down the manuals, and make sure everyone implements them. This is the same principle as E-M ...more
Nov 07, 2013 Austin added it
From my Small Business and Leadership coaching perspective, this book is brilliant. The hands on worker may do their job well bu until they create a system so that others may own the process, they will flounder.
Sam Carpenter floundered, burnout and potential bankruptcy could have happened because others did not know how Sam ran his business, so Sam had to do it all. When he realised the need to document process and empower others, things changed.
He sets out a system that enabled him to move from
Aug 05, 2012 Aqva rated it liked it
Анатолий Левенчук (ailev) в двух своих постах «Метанойя для контринтуитивных практик" ( задает два вопроса:

1. Что отличает простого инженера от главного конструктора;
2. Можно ли выучить на главного конструктора сразу.

И сам же отвечает: отличие простого инженера от главного конструктора в том, что у просто инженера в голове умещается только крыло самолета, а у главного конструктора - весь самолет. И да, на главного конструктора можно выучить. Сразу, а не
Jennifer (JC-S)
Dec 17, 2009 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it
‘One thing leads to another.’

After 15 years of running a stagnant business and lurching from one crisis to another, Sam Carpenter had an epiphany of sorts. He realised that the series of systems and sub-systems that work together in the natural world could also have a place both in managing a business and in having a more effective personal life.

This book contains a description of Mr Carpenter’s life before he addressed the use of systems. The chaos and stress he describes will be familiar to ma
Jan 22, 2016 Kelly rated it really liked it
I've been applying quite a bit of this already- i.e. developing and tweaking the systems that comprise work and personal life - and this book was full of interesting ways to look and act on this. I also happened to read it at a very relevant time in my career. I would only recommend this to a reader if he/she was the leader of a company; otherwise, if not I think there is a new book by this author coming out soon which focuses on personal life applications.
David Oren
Apr 05, 2015 David Oren rated it liked it
Good message but didn't find much new. The author is passionate about helping people fix systems but the book wasn't innovative for me. I'd recommend it if you've never read anything else about systemizing

work the system
- Look on the business, don't look within it
Feb 18, 2016 Joey rated it liked it
Shelves: on-my-shelf
This is a very important topic. So important that the author has to hammer it into our mind over and over and over again. I don't mind the repeated message as I know how big the impact it will be for me if I can apply the system mindset into my career and my own life.
Tom Corson-Knowles
Dec 19, 2014 Tom Corson-Knowles rated it it was amazing
Work the System is a truly exceptional book. Definitely one of the best business books I've ever read, and these concepts can be applied to every area of life. This should be required reading for entrepreneurs, managers and anyone who wants to improve their life.
Edelhart Kempeneers
Jul 23, 2015 Edelhart Kempeneers rated it it was ok
Niets nieuws geleerd. Doet alsof hij het vuur bij de goden is gaan stelen, maar beschrijft eigenlijk gewoon het principe van het ISO 9001 kwaliteitsmanagementsysteem. Al bij al niet echt de moeite.
Maxim Wegner
Jun 21, 2015 Maxim Wegner rated it it was amazing
A must for every entrepreneur who is overwhelmed by the beast she has created. Helps streamlining the processes and delegating the work.
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“Your job is not to be a fire killer. Your job is to prevent fires.” 3 likes
“If solid goals are established and the majority of time is spent manipulating systems toward those goals, great results will materialize naturally.” 0 likes
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