Augustine’s Laws by Norman Augustine


  1. There have been some many superb books published in recent years dealing with successful busines sundertakings. This book, however, takes a contrapuntal viewpoint and adopts the perspective of learning from a business gone awry. It is much as is the practice at medical conventions – where it is generally considered that a greatl deal can be learned by not focusing on healthy people. 

Key Takeaways

  1. There are 52 total laws, the most compelling (to me), outlined below
    1. There are no lazy veteran lion hunters – margin between victory and defeat is miniscule
    2. If you can afford to advertise, you don’t need to
    3. 1/10th of the participants produce 1/3 of the output. increasing the number of participants simply reduces the average output
    4. The last 10% of performance generates 1/3 of the costs and 2/3 of the problems
    5. It is very expensive to achieve high unreliability. It is not uncommon to increase the cost of an item by a factor of ten for each factor of ten degradation accomplished 
    6. Any task can be completed in only 1/3 more time than is currently estimated
    7. If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed on top of each other, it can be assured that disaster is not left to chance
    8. The optimum committee has no members
    9. Hiring consultants to conduct studies can be an excellent means of turning problems into gold – your problems into their gold
    10. The weaker the data available upon which to base one’s conclusion, the greater the precision which should be quoted in order to give the data authenticity.
    11. The more time you spend talking about what you have been doing, the less time you have to do what you have been talking about. Eventually, you spend more and more time talkinga bout less and less until finally you spend all your time talking about nothing. 
  2. Other
    1. Managerial intellect wilted in competition with managerial adrenaline
    2. In the words of Rick Mears, “to finish first you must first finish.”
    3. Quantity has a quality all its own
    4. An irate banker demadned that Alexander Graham Bell remove “that toy” from his office. The toy was the telephone. A Hollywood producer scrawled a rejection note on a manuscript that became Gone with the Wind. Henry Ford’s largest origianl investor sold all his stock in 1906. Today, Sears may sell $25,000 of goods in 16 seconds. 
    5. Adding people to speed up a late software project just makes it later
    6. Key Lessons
      1. People are the key to success in most any underatking
      2. Teamwork is the fabric of effective business organizations
      3. Self-image is as important in business as in sports
      4. Motivation makes the diference
      5. Recognition of accomplishment (and lack thereof) is an essential form of feedback
      6. Listening to employees and customers pay dividends – they know their jobs and needs better than anyone else
      7. Delegation, whenver practicable, is the best course. As Plato suggested, justice is everyone doing their own job
      8. Openness with empoyees and customers alike is essential to building trust
      9. Customers deserve the very best
      10. Quality is the key to customer satisfaction. It means giving the customer what was agreed upon – every time.
      11. Stability of funding, schedules, goals, and people is critical to any smooth business operation. Avoid turbulence at all costs
      12. Demanding that last little bit of effort from oneself is essential – it can make the difference against competitors who don’t have the will to put out the extra effort
      13. Provision for the unexpected is a business person’s best insurance policy. It is said that the ultimate form of management is managing under uncertainty. One must identify sources of risks and unknowns and make provisions to overcome them – in the form of financial reserves, schedule reserves, and performance reserves. Promise only that which can be produced and produce that which has been promised.
      14. “Touch Labor” – people who actually come into contact with the product – are the only certain contributors in any organization. Others may contribute – managers, lawyers, accountants, consultants, auditors – but they may not. 
      15. Rules, regulations, policies, reports,a nd organization charts are not a subsitutte for sound management judgment. 
      16. Logic in presenting decision options, consequences, benefits, and risks is imperative. Whenever parameters can be quantified, it is usually desirable to do so
      17. Conservatism, prudent conservatism, is generally the best path in financial matters
      18. Integrity is the sine qua non of all human endeavors including business. It has even been said that if rascals knew the value of honesty they would be honest simply because of their rascality.
      19. Much of the above simply boils down to DISCIPLINE – and in particulars that finest form of the art – SELF-discipline. DIscipline not to take the easy way out, discipline to forgeo “nice-to-have” features, discipline to minimize change, discipline to demand a quality product, discipline to treat a customer fairly even when it costs, and discipline to “tough out” and solve the problems which will occur in even the best-managed undertakings. As Robert Townsend, the former chairman of AVIS, put it in his book Up the Organization, managers must have the discipline not to keep pulling up the flowers to see if their roots are healthy. Most of our problems, it seems, are, as could be their solutions, self-imposed.

What I got out of it

  1. Ironic, sarcastic, hysterical, correct.