Book Review - The System - August 2007

The System

Book: The System - Seeking the Soul of Commerce
Author(s): Rick Stephens and Elane V. Scott (
Publisher: Preparation Press, Whittier, CA
Length: 246 pages
Reviewer: Phil Rosenkrantz

The System: Seeking the Soul of Commerce represents the passion of Rick Stephens and Elane V. Scott for our educational system and what needs to be done to begin to turn it in the right direction. The book is written in story-telling prose along the lines of The Goal and Leading With Soul. Although my natural tendency is to initially find that style of writing a bit slow and sometimes uninteresting, I am usually engaged after about page 50 and identifying with various characters. Similar to The Goal, the reader is guided through a maze of problems at a Terra Waste Management (a $3 Billion company) that can only be addressed effectively with systems thinking.

The main problem addressed by the book is that our educational system is not producing new workers that are ready for the workplace. A case can be made that the lack of qualified new workers is the most critical problem American industry is facing today. Most high school and college graduates today are not able communicators or systems thinkers for a variety of reasons that are thoroughly explained in the book.

As an engineering professor and baby boomer, this book is especially poignant. How we in higher education incorporate communications, critical thinking, humanities, social sciences, global perspectives, environmentalism, and other disciplines into engineering education to produce true systems thinkers and innovators is crucial to addressing the problem. But as the authors painstakingly point out, the solution to the problem has to begin long before the college years with the whole community coming to the table and partaking in working on the system.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in our educational system and developing the next generation of systems thinkers.

The book includes references to studies and other resources that support many of the underlying trends mentioned. Published by Preparation Press, Whittier, CA, 2006. The authors also have website that allows readers to participate in forums and other collaborative efforts: A download version of the book is available.

Reviewed by Phil Rosenkrantz, Ed.D., P.E.,  Professor, Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona