AUGUSTINE'S LAWS by Norman R. Augustine


Email this review


A deftly antic appraisal of the organizational moon's dark side, where excellence is in short supply. An aerospace executive, Augustine focuses on the foibles of the military/industrial complex; his wry reminders of bureaucratic fallibility, though, are widely applicable to virtually any sector of business or government. As it happens, the author himself may have escaped the long arm of Murphy's Law: in its original, shorter form, his book was published by a trade assocation for the amusement of technical managers. Probably because the revision was a one-man job, the text has survived whatever expansion occurred to broaden readership. In the event, Augustine expounds on his laws--52 in all--in conjunction with a running account of a dubious enterprise initially known as the Daedalus Model Airplane Co.; launched by a couple of young MBAs unable to find much room at the top, the firm lurches through a calamitous series of learning experiences and name changes, ending finally in bankruptcy. This narrative device affords Augustine ample opportunity to rip and snort his way across the commercial landscape, offering tart commentaries on all aspects of Corporate America's seemingly boundless capacity to blunder from start-up to finish. There are more than a few sitting ducks in his shooting gallery, e.g., the propensity of bankers to loan money only to those who don't need it, regulatory authorities' fondness for circumlocution, the likelihood that a company's profitability will be inversely proportional to the rewards reaped by its chieftains, and the ineffectuality of committees. More often than not, however, he's on target with such dicta as: ""Although most products will soon be too costly to purchase, there will be a thriving market in the sale of books on how to fix them."" A constant delight as well are Augustine's throwaway observations, including the intelligence that WW II was won in about half the time it now takes to develop a military weapons system. In the diverting tradition of C. Northcote Parkinson, Laurence J. Peter, and Robert Townsend; a nice bit of comic relief from deadly serious guides that mistake management for leadership.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
Publisher: Viking