Friday, December 19, 2008

"Work the System"

I was pleasantly surprised when Sam Carpenter’s publicist wrote from Oregon and asked me to review Sam’s book “Work the System”. She sent me a free copy and I have now read it.

Sam tells the story of how he turned his business around when he reached the edge of disaster in both a business and personal sense. He was working 100 hours a week and even sleeping in his office. He was worried about how he was going to pay the next employees salaries due. He had run his business for 15 years at this point.

He describes how this crisis made him take what he calls an "outside and slightly elevated" view of how things really were in his company.

He recognised from this vantage point that he needed to pay serious attention to all the systems in his company that relied too much on him personally. He explains how he took apart all the systems and put them back together again providing documented evidence of all systems.

He writes about the underpinning role played in this Work the System process by three key elements of documentation; the one page Strategic Objective, A collection of written General Operating Principles and the Working Procedures.

From "whacking the moles" and "fire fighting" Sam was able to see his business become, over time, a smooth operation not needing as much of his personal input - other than as leader.

Eight years after his "outside and slightly elevated" epiphany he now works 2 hours per week as his business continues to make significant bottom line profit. There is high employee retention and high levels of employee involvement and job satisfaction.

I love the honesty and personal confessions as Sam writes about his own mistakes and how he went about putting them right.

Sam says that the reader will ‘get it’ as you make progress through the book. Fairly early on I recognised what Sam was saying and by the end of the book I had put into practice his “outside and slightly elevated” concept to a life long problem I’ve had – that is how to make sure I finish books that I start to read!

I think Sam's wisdom and personal experience is well worth reading about if you own a business, if you are, like me, self employed or if you work for someone else.

What Sam tells me in this book is to be obsessional about your systems – dismantle them; rebuild them; and tweak them and change them involving all the employees in that process. You must also reward people well for being signed up to the systems thinking.

I thoroughly recommend this book. I’ve never really considered myself a ‘systems type’ of manager but while reading Sam’s book I now believe I am one!

Thank you Sam and good luck with your book – it is full of references to the need to keep things simple and that’s another major reason I will be regularly dipping into “Work the System” which now stands boldly among my favourite books in my office.
You can see more about Sam’s book and his other work by clicking here


dave wheeler said...

Trevor...what a great example of a person making the transition from being a reactive manager to a proactive and results producing leader. Systems and front line involvement is definitely a formula that is a performance multiplier. Another great example of how true that can be.

Looks like anther book to add the list! Thanks to you and Mr. Carpenter for the terrific success story!

Trevor Gay said...

I'm sure you would love the book Dave - Sam is a hard working and very fair boss it seems to me. Consistency is his watch word. The best bosses I've had always showed consistency.