by Sam Carpenter
Updated May 10, 2022
(Thanks for taking the time to go deeper into understanding the Work the System method. Here’s a quick summary. -sc)
The purpose of my book, and by extension the Work the System Method, is to help owners of small to medium sized businesses break loose; to eliminate organizational inefficiency so growth can happen, profits can increase, and true personal freedom can be found. Read the Preface to the Fourth edition of the book which gives a more thorough overview. (Download it, and the first four chapters of the book here).
Brick and mortar, virtual, retail, construction, service or product-producer, owner-operated or with a large staff: It doesn’t matter. Regardless of the type size of the organization, dysfunction most often has its roots in the same foundational weakness: a fire-killing, chaotic, non-systematic approach.
Do you sometimes think you’re spending your day fruitlessly “herding cats?” Are you positive you can prosper, but just can’t make it happen?
If so, read on: you’ll find this interesting.
Once a business owner “gets” the systems mindset, how long does it take to start to see substantial improvement? In most cases, immediately. (There’s some work for you to do, but it really is a simple thing.) And in that immediate gratification and the ensuing immediate improvement, the systems mindset takes hold….
How do we help, beyond the book? You can go to WTS Enterprises to find Josh Fonger’s consulting, coaching, and certification services. And there is Business Documentation Software. You can reach each of these independent spin-off businesses on the home page of this site. (I gave these enterprises to trusted colleagues. By choice, I receive no financial compensation from either entity.)
The Work the System methodology takes a simple yet deep tact, one that begins with a single “tweak” in the leader’s perspective of how the business mechanically functions. With the new vantage point, inefficient methodologies are easy to detect and subsequent necessary actions for improvement come naturally. But yes, the transformation requires thoughtfully sequenced steps.
The Work the System method compliments the brilliant works of elite motivators and business/personal gurus such as Steven Covey, Anthony Robbins, Jim Collins, Robert Ringer, Michael Gerber and Dale Carnegie. Better said, the method gets underneath these proven methodologies and makes them even more potent.
In my business of 38 years, Centratel, I worked 80-100 hours a week for 15 years with an income just barely enough to support me and my two children. (I was a single custodial parent.) But when the “Systems Mindset” vision came to me twenty-three years ago, in a single moment of time, I immediately began to turn things around. I now work perhaps one hour per month while my personal income is…let’s just say, much more than my wife Diana and I need. Centratel, a telephone answering service with 800 competitors nationwide is, by several statistical measurements, #1 in its industry.
How do you get the book? Buy the hard cover version on Amazon or in bookstores. You’ll find the book in the Kindle and Audible formats, too.
Work the System addresses the following reality: Many corporate managers and entrepreneurs/business owners see the world as a complex, confused, random mass of sights, sounds, and events. And because of this misperception of reality, the leader is working long stressful hours, killing fires and performing endless recurring tasks…and is almost always contending with cash-flow problems. There is no foundation for building solid infrastructure, coddle customers, train staff properly or do the creative tasks necessary for growth. Usually, family life is a struggle too. Add to this, health problems. It’s a pity: as the years march on, entire lives are spent this way! You know it’s true. You’ve seen it…or maybe you are experiencing it yourself.
It’s incredibly frustrating to know that there are growth possibilities, but not to be able to make them happen. Yes?
So, what is the foundational reason for business mediocrity and failure? The leader doesn’t see the less-than-perfect mechanisms that are producing the bad results.
The systems of life are there, working constantly, whether one sees them or not. So it follows that unseen (and therefore unmanaged) systems will produce random (and undoubtedly) bad results. Efforts to fix these recurring bad results is called fire-killing. A successful leader sees and understands how the machinery works, and then makes permanent adjustments to those mechanisms to achieve desired results. THIS is the end of fire-killing! The leader who can’t see the machinery that is producing the bad results will just keep thrashing, barely surviving; never getting ahead.
It’s the seeing part that is critical.
Yes, it’s that simple…The Systems Mindset constantly pays attention to the machinery and is always focused on system improvement. Not once in a while, but all day long…this is how one breaks loose. This is how dysfunction goes away and growth and peace can finally happen.
The Work the System Method requires a simple change in mindset – the adoption of an “outside and slightly elevated” vantage point – a view that vividly sees the separate systems of the world. I call this, “getting it.” The Systems Mindset is logical and self-evident as it produces incredible efficiency at work and in personal life. The added bonus? A relaxed, confident state of mind that stems from solid command of events and outcomes.
Life comes under control.
The methodology is not hocus-pocus, mystical or esoteric. It’s about simple, believable real-world mechanics. There’s no need for a list of tips or for motivational gimmicks, although my book offers a thorough compendium of guidelines to apply after the “get-it” insight occurs. There is no need to change occupations or upset the family. It’s a personal evolution that will benefit everyone already in the picture. Once the vision is acquired – the moment to moment ability to starkly perceive the myriad of separate, independent systems in one’s world – new, correct actions will be taken naturally and things will fall into place as confusion diminishes. (Part One of the three part Work the System book is designed to guide the reader into acquiring the new mindset.)
Our individual lives are NOT inherently chaotic and at the mercy of random or hostile outside influences. And despite the media’s never ending doomsday diatribes, in whole, the world is not problematic. Whether you perceive them or not, your life is a collection of individual linear systems, the vast majority of which operate with incredible efficiency, and each of which ultimately produces some kind of result.
Every result and situation in our lives is the end-product of an underlying step-by-step linear system…and most systems work just fine! In fact, systems almost WANT to work as they are designed.
Consider the complexities of a tree, business, car, house, or human body. All of these “primary systems” are in existence due to countless sub-systems that work together to form that particular entity. For example, the human body is an incredibly complex arrangement of billions of cells…and with trillions of electrical signals executing each second. Subsystems include neuromuscular, structural; cardiovascular, etc. It all works near-flawlessly as subsystems interact, adjust, and maintain themselves.
And that’s just the human body. Incredible perfection surrounds us! Can you start to see it? Just look around….
The whole world operates in this way! So, despite our tendency to focus on the relatively few imperfections in our lives, simple observation leads to the following conclusion: the huge majority of systems around us work just fine. Truth is, the world as a whole is 99.9% flawless in its operation…and internalizing this fact makes one realize there isn’t that much to adjust in order to break free, to “get what one wants.” And no small thing, the insight provides a new sense of appreciation of life….
“Getting” this new vision means a more efficient life, a life more in tune with how the world actually mechanically operates.
If we thoroughly understand how a machine works, we’re better able to fix that machine and then take it to optimum functionality. It’s that simple, and it’s exactly what I did with every facet of my own life.
And my business? It’s made up of people who see things in the same simple way. They “get it!”
At work, how does one fix what is inefficient? It’s breathtakingly simple. View the workplace as it is: a collection of individual linear systems – how the phone is answered, how a complaint is handled, how a sales presentation is performed, how customers are billed. Know that these systems are separate from each other. (Yes, of course they interact, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t independent entities.)
Perfect systems executed perfectly 100% of the time: For each system, typically in a simple 1-2-3-4 step format: document the execution. Then, with staff, brainstorm and then improve the sequence of steps until they are perfect. Document the system. Then, reinsert the perfected system back into the operation. As a matter of policy, everyone in the organization will execute each perfected system in exactly the same sequence every single time – yet everyone understands that if a system can be improved, the adjustment will be made instantly. This “bottom up” strategy is a key element of the work-the-system formula.
“Bottom-up?” Yes, after you get the hang of it, you’ll teach your managers and front-line staff to create the ongoing documentation. They are the ones who will do the system improvement work, from the bottom up. This is key to employee loyalty and enthusiasm. Do this, and you’ll get the buy-in from your employees that you’ve always wanted.
Here is the heart of the Method: Your job is not to be a fire-killer. Your job is to be a fire-prevention specialist.
Stop expending energy in the constant repair of the bad results that have been produced by your unseen and therefore unmanaged systems. Instead, spend your days observing and then managing the systems that are creating the results. Do this in your business and get the results you’ve always wanted: growth and freedom. Do this in your personal life and you’ll get the same…
Does this sound regimented? Some of it is regimented, but the release valve is in giving your people the power to constantly “tweak” systems to higher efficiency. It’s a workplace culture centered around system improvement. In the systems mindset-driven business, management and staff adjust systems constantly. That’s how they spend their time. It’s what they do. And getting everyone to climb on board is a simple matter because once things begin to fall into place, and it won’t take long, you and your people will make more money and the work environment will become serene…and there will be a powerful sense of pride throughout the organization. There will be no going back to the way things were because everything is now working so smoothly. Best of all, powerful growth will happen and that’s good for everyone.
Is there something here for a one-person operation or for a corporate middle manager? Yes! This is about dramatically improving efficiency, and the more efficient one is, the more one gets what one wants out of life…and that includes a rapidly expanding solo business or a fast climb up the corporate ladder.
What size businesses do we assist? Josh Fonger, our world-wide licensee, tells me his coaching and consulting clients range between 100K and $500M in annual revenue.
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From the book…
“Life is serious business and whether you know it or not—or whether you like it or not—your personal systems are the threads of the fabric of your life. Together, the end-products of your personal systems add up to you. And if you are like most people, you negotiate your days without seeing your systems as the singular entities they are, some working well and some not so well.”
“The focus must be on the proactive management of systems, not in coping with random bad results due to unseen and therefore unmanaged systems.”
“Without prodding, nor willing it to happen, I stepped outside my life, rose above it and looked down, never again to settle back into the morass that had been my existence. There was nothing mystical about this new vantage point. It was mechanical and logical. I saw that the solution to my business problems did not lie in becoming more proficient at whacking moles—the solution was to find a way to eliminate the moles altogether.”