Work the System by Sam Carpenter [Book Summary]


They’re everywhere around you. Can you notice them? Can you feel them? 

OK, chill, this is not about invisible aliens. This is about systems.

Different invisible aliens, these systems actually really affect a lot of what we do daily. Maybe it’s driving to your place of work or running errands with the family, ponder on the entire systems that affect you. The highway traffic, your company’s administrative processes, parking lots, fossil fuel costs, even the social systems of communication and language. Systems are all around.

As soon as you begin to notice systems everywhere, you can begin to ponder on how you can change the situation: Rather than them only influencing you, how can you work them? This book will tell you how.


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Chapter 1 – Develop the systems outlook: the world is a logical system of processes and not a disordered mess.


Do you ever feel as though you are like a weak grain of sand in a dust storm of disorder out of your control? Well, it’s not the disorder that controls the world; however, a basic inherent order, even if we can’t notice it all the time.

Dwell on it: Nobody is in control of managing the world; still, everything works well 99.9 percent of the time. How is this possible?

The reason is that systems, that is; lots of various parts all working together to achieve one purpose, are naturally disposed to stability and efficiency.

There are all kinds of systems that work well together daily without you even knowing. For example, in some distant place, oil is dug out from the earth through cautiously engineered approaches and machinery. Afterward, the oil dug out is transported to refineries either by rail, pipeline, sea or road and lastly carried to numerous gas stations for your ease.

Anytime there is disorder or dysfunction in a system, it is mostly the outcome of human mistakes.

Although systems have a tendency to run well, human beings have a tendency to make errors. Unacceptable results aren’t the outcome of luck or bad luck; however, instead, they are evidence of our skill to use our power on processes.

For instance, the global financial crisis wasn’t caused as a result of bad luck. It was due to chains of bad choices that people took.



Also, our evaluation to know if systems are working as they ought to is mostly subjective, because what is eligible as a “positive outcome” relies really strongly on our viewpoint.

For instance, in your own opinion, you may consider it outrageous that the costs of gas are really high. But, a country that exports oil will see the circumstance quire differently.

But, the circumstance is not constant. For example, governments could work out a better resource sharing plan that everybody gains from.

As you can see, you’re not only a grain of sand; you have power and can work the system to your own benefit.


Chapter 2 – Stop worrying about systems that are beyond your control, and begin taking charge of the systems you can alter.


Almost everybody has at some point sunk to a point where they felt as if they’d never accomplish their visions since the game is basically rigged against them. This outlook makes sure that you’ll never accomplish the change you desire!

It’s correct: no single person has complete power over the entire system that influences her life. You can’t do anything about it; therefore just admit it and let it go.

For instance, although you can use your right to vote in a democracy, the whole result will be out of your control. Your vote is only one among numerous, and complaining about it doesn’t change anything.  

However, that doesn’t entail that you should ridicule democracy. Nevertheless, you can still contribute, and although your vote might not independently change an election, that doesn’t entail that you are without power.

But, there are a lot of systems that are under your direct order. You just need to take control of handling them in order to make things work for your advantage.



The majority of things don’t go how we want them since we don’t even attempt to change their result. Think of democracy once again: If you trust that you are really powerless, then you might not vote again. That’s certainly not going to promote your interest.

Or, consider a more daily illustration; if you want to shed weight, you won’t lose any pounds through intention only. Abandoning to chance won’t do make you shed pounds either. Instead, you’ll have to create a plan – a diet, an exercise schedule or something related– and start doing it.

Therefore, leave the situations that are beyond your control and concentrate rather on the systems that you can control. You have to accept it and work with it.


Chapter 3 – Take a step back to examine systems from an outsider viewpoint.


How simple is it to mistake the forest for the trees? It’s really simple as a matter of fact. Still, we usually forget the clear answer: distance.

Certainly, you can just expect to know the systems that pilot your life and your place in society by stepping back and acquiring the viewpoint of a person on the outside looking in.

A cogwheel in a machine just understands the other cogwheels it touches. Just by viewing the cogwheels in relation to the remaining of the machinery can you expect to know how the mechanism truly functions.

Likewise, we usually go through our day-to-day habits without noticing the various systems that we go through and participate in every day, which can make it hard for us to realize our personal role in these systems.

However, as soon as you check them from the correct perspective, you are in a perfect position to divide these systems and view their interworking parts.

All systems can be divided into subsystems, and every subsystem can be divided into multi-step processes. By dividing systems in this manner, we can handle controllable pieces and discover the mechanisms that bring about issues.



Consider it in this manner: your mechanic would be pointless if he didn’t understand that a vehicle consists of hydraulic, electrical and mechanical, and know that these systems work together to make the vehicle work.

All systems are just as good as its parts; therefore, if you can take a step back and view the separate components, then you’ll get a better knowledge of what issues require mending.


Chapter 4 – Take the driver’s seat and turn it into a system manager.


Now that you have a better knowledge of the meaning of systems, it’s time to know how you can use this understanding to enhance both your professional and personal life. However’ firstly we need to establish some basic principles.

Begin by outlining your aim and matching strategies in depth. If you don’t have any aim, it becomes difficult to make choices, as your decisions will have no obviously motivated reason.

Just like a ship that doesn’t a compass, you won’t be able to know if you are moving far away or moving closer to your aim if you don’t have a clear understanding of what that aim is meant to be.

Secondly, know that today’s issues are tomorrow’s opportunities.

You don’t want to get used to dealing with issues as they appear. You want to remove the issues from its source; hence preventing future problems. That entails knowing which issues are symptomatic of errors in your system. Your aim as a systems manager is to make systems function more efficiently.

By doing this, the issues that you find are really opportunities to enhance the functionality of your systems.



For instance, ending your relationship with your partner might look like the clear key for your dysfunctional relationship. That is until you see yourself in the same circumstances with a different person a year after.

Rather, you could have considered your relationship as a system and discovered the reason for the issue in that system. Perhaps then you could have known what it was about yourself or the way your relationship is that allowed your relationship dysfunctional to start with.

You can control the entire systems that you part of, maybe they’re social, biological, financial, professional or personal. In the following chapter, you will discover more on how to make use of this to your business.


Chapter 5 – Concentrate on your duty as a leader.


A business isn’t a stone. Instead, it is a difficult organization made of numerous interoperating systems. Therefore, how can you expect to handle such difficulty?

Just like all systems, your business can be divided into subsystems. By allocating the management of departments, meaning, subsystems, you save yourself the precious time that can be used in leadership.

The leader of human resources should handle HR, the logistics manager should handle logistics and so on, drawing on your orders; however, not needing your opinion for every choice.

How could you likely be present for all the HR, logistics, or sales meetings while also devising the strategic course that all systems should be abiding with?



You will have to be precise in outlining aims and guidelines when devising this strategic course.

Do you recall the sailboat without a compass? You don’t ever wish to see yourself in such circumstances. If you don’t devise a course, then there is no hope for your business in creating the results you desire.

This is your duty, that is, the duty of a leader: plotting the strategic course that directs these interoperating systems.

During the early phase of the author’s career, he had just set unclear goals for his company – things such as getting more profit – before eventually finding out business procedures. After internalizing the systems outlook and cherishing the various systems present around him, he was able to set more certain objectives and strategies that were really beneficial in measuring his progress.

For instance, he set the precise company aim of becoming one of the top five players in the US market by increasing quality while decreasing quantity. His new tactic yielded good outcomes almost straightaway.


Chapter 6 – Operate your business just like a machine.


The majority of the people want their business to function like a well-oiled machine. However, a rusty old machine is a good beginning as well.

By fixing the subsystems within your business, you have a chance to discover big value.

Dysfunctional aspects of your business basically signify unseen profits waiting to be revealed. Therefore, how should you fix them?

Begin by addressing the major problems – or dysfunctional aspects– first, and work your way down to the smallest parts.

As your problem-solving get more precise, you’ll require less and less time to deal with dysfunctional aspects; hence, making sure that you improve your processes and increase profits as soon as possible.

However, for your machine to work well, your employees will need to understand how to run that machine.

A consistent result is not the outcome of chance; however of thorough instructions. Include your workers in writing step-by-step instructions for each process, in order for duties to be done in the most efficient manner possible all the time.



One of the reasons why computer programs are really efficient is that they do a process the same approach all the time, following a step-by-step rule. Make use of this as guidance in making your systems as consistent and expected as possible.

As soon as you’ve set your systems, you can’t forget to service them. All machines have to be oiled, repaired and tuned. Don’t make the error of depending on your successes. Even the greatest client relationship will become bad, for instance, if you fail to provide them the essential attention.

If you run systems in a manner that averts issues and sustains a consistent quality of the result, you will not just make more profit; however, you will also do so more efficiently.


Chapter 7 – Make the most of your process efficiency with achievable goals and good communication.


What is the correct goal? Is it getting all the things correctly? All 100%? When we talk about business, we’ll need to make use of different reasoning.

Here, 98 percent is totally okay. Don’t waste your resources, time, and cost on attempting to make things 100% correct.

As a matter of fact, 98% could be considered perfect, as attaining that final 2% needs a lot of extra work that it would make the process unproductive!

For instance, how long it would take and the energy you would need to paint the fence? And what additional time and energy would it need to paint it well, without any streaks or flaws? Also, would it even be useful?

Think about that when you’re choosing how you will make the most of the efficiency of your systems. They don’t need to be flawless; they only need to be great.

In the process of accomplishing your near-perfect system, ensure never to stop communicating.



Certainly, the communication system is ever-present in business and in your individual life. Misunderstandings and disputes occur from silence. If there is an issue, settle it right away.

Actions can be taken to institutionalize communication and discussion in your business by giving numerous chances for one-on-one and group communication, like meetings.

Beyond business, a lot of issues occur from a mere lack of communication. Even fights as big as the Cold War were mostly a consequence of poor communication. Also, it nearly caused an atomic war!

On the other hand, states that communicate frequently through common trust enhance their cooperation, like the case in the European Union. Target to be more like them regardless of if it’s at home with your partner or at your place of work with your colleagues.


Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less by Sam Carpenter Book Review


Working hard doesn’t spontaneously lead to success, particularly if you waste your labor doing the wrong things. In order to maximize your work, you need to know the systems in which you work, and then recognize, study and improve the dysfunctional parts in them.


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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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