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NONFICTION : AUGUSTINE'S LAWS: A TOP EXECUTIVE LOOKS AT THE COMPLEXITIES AND CONUNDRUMS OF TODAY'S BUSINESS MANAGEMENT--AND OFFERS SOLUTIONS by Norman R. Augustine (Viking: $18.95, illustrated).

March 30, 1986|ALEXANDRA R. LAJOUX

"80-20" Pareto, "Work Expands" Parkinson, and "If Anything Can Go Wrong" Murphy discovered many Laws, but, like Johannes Kepler, Robert Boyle and Amadeo Avogadro, two and three centuries before them, are remembered mainly for one.

The future Augustine's Law may well be the 26th of 52 this top aerospace executive wrote: "If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed . . . disaster is not left to chance"--a prophetic moral for the tragic space shuttle explosion that occurred days before this book's first commercial publication. But if our collective memory retains only this painful principle, as individuals we can learn and laugh broadly with its author, whatever our humor.

Unusual epithets salt the serial farce of two MBAs-turned-entrepreneurs, whose cumulative failures introduce each new chapter on the book's real-life subject: us, all here, from math-anxious cost estimators to hands-off managers, our foibles proved in 68 charts.

The epilogue offers 18 ways to avoid the above. Will we? Given Augustine's Laws, dare we launch another Challenger or build another bridge? History says yes. Brilliant satire heralds brilliant science, as doubt breeds inquiry. Could Kepler et al . have discovered their truths had Erasmus' Folly not shown the way

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