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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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  5,423 ratings  ·  126 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
Pasta dura, 240 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Greenleaf Book Group Llc (first published April 2008)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  5,423 ratings  ·  126 reviews

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Feb 17, 2014 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
Jun 20, 2013 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. ...more
Mar 29, 2010 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
Dec 17, 2009 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 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
Annie Smidt
Sep 26, 2015 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
Feb 16, 2015 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 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
C.A. Gray
Mar 02, 2015 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. ...more
Donal Phipps
Aug 15, 2012 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.
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was expecting a clear, concise-actionable way to identify, order and optimize systems as an entrepreneur. Instead I found a 33,000 feet "big picture" analysis full of anecdotes... ...more
Grekz M
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Split your life in microservices and improve them one by one. Write all those algorithms.
Ken Parkinson
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Good ideas, mediocre writing.
Aaron Gertler
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an odd book! Half of it is business-book boilerplate, to the point of being trite, but the other half is divided into a really fascinating personal story (culminating in a sort of business vision quest, where the truth of the world is revealed to the author during what sounds like a very serious Dark Night of the Soul) and a series of quite beautiful musings on the ways that order can bring peace and joy to a person's life. Carpenter's spiritual cousins include Marie Kondo and Cal Newport.

Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fab by: Zack Sexton
Shelves: productivity
This book is a great introduction to the Systems mindset, a vision of the world as an orderly collection of processes, not as a chaotic mess. In our lives everything is a system: a set of parts that come together to accomplish a goal. When a system follows a series of repeatable steps it will cause a specific outcome. Some systems are obviously more complex than others and the ones that most of us grow up learning about include biological, mechanical and social systems. The author spends most of ...more
Nov 21, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Rohit Yadav
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
1. Perceiving system (subsystems that govern those systems) that govern your work and life
2. Come up with some preventive systems.
3. The pathway to control is to discover, examine & optimise your mechanical & biological system
4. Methodology : Strategic Objective, Operating Principles, Working procedures
5. Written documentation is important
6. Applications: Conferences, Seminar/Workshops, Guest Lectures, Magazines, Yearly Celebrations & Events, Admission & Examination process, Meetings, Assessme
Trevor Anderson
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent insight into focusing on the boring parts of business to make it work properly.

Anyone who has had a few jobs knows that some places are nice and neatly organized and at other places day-to-day processes become fire-fighting. Sam Carpenter worked in the latter for many years, and then had an epiphany about how to fix his failing business: reorganize every procedure.

His company went on to be one of the top companies of its class and now he only has to work a few hours per week because
May 02, 2015 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
Jun 30, 2014 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. ...more
Jan 22, 2016 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. ...more
Oct 03, 2012 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 ...more
Nov 26, 2014 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. ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Story telling used to share business experience. Enjoyed reading more than most business books
Brad Lockey
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you work (anywhere), they're important.
Isolate a problem.
Document the discovery.
Refine and iterate steps to solve the problem.
And then, work that system.
Cleveland Harris
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If I didn't have 15 other books on my nightstand I am itching to read I would start this book over again immediately...maybe I should just go ahead and reread it now! ...more
Jitariu Catalin
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I give it 5* for the ideea and motivation to do your own systems. Sadly the writing is not great, but it doesn't have to be. ...more
Bj Lee
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great book for anyone who feels like there business is a bit too organic.
Sean Goh
Jul 25, 2015 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
Khalid Hajeri
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Business book readers, self-help book readers
Own the systems in your business and your personal life!

Sam Carpenter's book "Work the System" tells readers how to effectively manage and eventually take ownership of the events in their lives, whether within their control or seemingly out of their hands. Through initially telling the story of his career progress, he reveals several methods in which readers can utilize to grasp and remain in control of life situations.

Mr. Carpenter first tackles the challenges that managers face in the business
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