Work The System by Sam Carpenter: Summary and Notes

work the system

“If you own a business, your mission is to work hard but not long, to reduce the workweek significantly, and to make more money than you require. If you have a job, the goal is to use your forty-hour workweek to produce large quantities of superior output in order to quickly ascend the management ranks so you are earning serious money and can call your own shots.”

Rating: 8/10

Related Books: The Systems MindsetSYSTEMology, The E-Myth Revisited, Built To SellMillionaire FastlaneClock Work


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Work The System: Short Summary

Work The System by Sam Carpenter explains how to improve all aspects of your life. Carpenter contends that everything around us is a system and that systems can be improved. You can run a better business, improve your job performance, relationships, and so much more. The secret lies in Working the System.

The Mindset

Life is composed of systems that are yours to control or not to control.

There are two psychological approaches to finding a way to live a full and positive life:

  1. The Freudian stance. Assumes that our past determines our present happiness
  2. The cognitive approach. Our current thoughts determine our happiness

The cognitive approach is more practical as it implies that we control what happens in our lives.

“One should choose the simplest explanation of a phenomenon, the one that requires the fewest leaps of logic. Or one could say, “Keep it simple, stupid!”

Fixing life’s problems in one swoop is impossible. You have to proceed one step at a time.

There is a direct relationship between happiness and the amount of control that we have.

To take control of our lives, we have to adopt a different perspective. We must question our status quo in relation to ourselves. It is about sorting the things that are under our area of influence.

Orderliness and attention to detail are keys to peace.

The mindset of successful people is such that they pay attention to the mechanical details of life.

Management must focus on improving systems and not performing the work or attending to rising issues.

When life is in chaos, it is not because we are victims of circumstance but because many of the subsystems of life are being mismanaged.

The universe has an overwhelming inclination towards stability and order. All we have to do is embrace it.

Critical Documentation

The Work The System protocol has three main documents:

  • The Strategic Objective. This document is similar to the declaration of independence. It is your mandate for a better future. It will provide overall direction to your work and personal life
  • The General Operating Principles document. This document is similar to the constitution. It offers a guideline for future decision making
  • The Working Procedures. These are the laws guiding your game. These are the blue collars fundamentals of your work

In tough times, the documents will remind you that you are a system-of-systems and that tweaking certain external and internal subsystems is what you must do.

The world operates efficiently 99% of the time because physical laws are unchangeable.

Mechanical reality is predictable. A rope cannot do the work of a shovel.

The essence of the Work the System method is to:

  1. Internalize the fundamentals. Improve your perspective of life and business
  2. To help pinpoint the goals of your business, life, and job. This is your Strategic objective
  3. Create your collection of General Operating Principles. These will help you in decision making
  4. Define specific systems for improvement. These include the ones that exist and the ones that you must create
  5. Dissect each system into its fundamental aspects. Create a 1, 2, 3 step format for each subsystem in your life
  6. Improve each step one at a time. Make your systems perfect
  7. Document each system into a working procedure. This will ensure that there is continuity in your systems for business and your job
  8. Put the new working procedures into play. Inspect and tweak them where necessary

Your Strategic Objective And General Operating Principles

To end workplace chaos, get things on paper. Begin by developing your Strategic Objective document.

The Strategic Objective document will become your fundamental guideline for making decisions.

“Without exception, the businesses that are large and successful are “working their systems.” And the ones without thoughtful direction and structured, sensible protocols—most small businesses— are struggling. Very simple.”

Your Working Procedures

Working Procedures make the system tangible, something that can be seen, touched and even perfected.

Working Procedures provide direction for flawless operation. Be ruthless in insisting that the staff follow the set guidelines. The procedure should be rock solid and inflexible until your management staff agrees that changes are necessary.

A summary of procedure documentation:

  1. Every recurring process requires a Working Procedure. The procedure should define the best method of doing the process
  2. When a problem arises, your staff should use it as a cue to create or modify a Working Procedure. If the problem is infrequent, there is no need for that. Otherwise, you will end up with too much documentation
  3. Involve your staff in creating new procedures. They are as responsible as manager for keeping the company running efficiently
  4. Make procedures identical in presentation. This will make instructions clearer across the company
  5. Every new procedure needs to be revised. New procedures should go through a staff member who will use it to spot any glitches
  6. Sign off the procedures yourself. Use that opportunity to make sure they are consistent with your overall vision

 Further Considerations

Work the system - Further Considerations

The aim of owning a business is to work hard but not long hours.

“If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business—you have a job.” — Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited

If you are employed, the goal is to use the 40 hour-week to produce large quantities of superior work to ascend the management ranks, earn serious money, and call your shots.

“Time and money wasted is time and money gone forever. And a waste of time and money means some other positive thing that could have happened, didn’t.”

Don’t waste your time on useless content or by complaining about what you cannot influence. At the same time, don’t get caught up in what’s not fair about the world. Instead, work to fix what you can about the state of the world.

Not taking action is a choice. And since you are making choices daily, why not make them count?

Point-of-sale posture:  Being ready to act and on the offense. It means handling whatever comes your way

Having a point of sale posture will help you carve a clear path ahead while your systems take care of everything else.

“In everything you do, think beyond immediate temptation and stick with the plan as outlined in your critical documents. Your documentation will keep you from sinking as it relentlessly moves you toward your goals!”

The quantity of communication is a direct determinant of success or failure. If there is constant communication, the quality will take care of itself.

Prime Time

Prime time (Biological prime time) is all about maximizing your productivity when your brainpower is at its peak. Some people work best in the morning while others it is the evening.

The concept of prime time aims at the most fundamental of systems which is our actions.

“BPT is when you should create your Strategic Objective, General Operating Principles, and Working Procedures. Of course, after your initial Work the System documentation is complete, BPT will continue to be there for whatever takes focus, whatever takes the most concentration. You will learn to cherish these golden hours.”

Mechanical prime time (MPT) is the time spent working on system improvement and building primary systems such as your career and your business. MPT exists only if we create it.

“During the workday, no matter what you are doing, look at each action you take and ask yourself if it is contributing to “making more and working less.”