Fortunately for his sanity, Augustine is a wry guy. He amply showed that in his first book, Augustine's Laws, which skewers business life. In his latest work, Augustine's Travels, there's humor in nearly every paragraph. Indeed, Augustine sometimes tries too hard to be clever--but the book remains enjoyable. To make points about life in and out of the corporate world, Augustine quotes his own past work and everyone from Benjamin Disraeli to Winnie the Pooh to Yogi Berra. There's no B-school jargon or psycho-babble. Instead, there's advice--be honest, trustworthy, thrifty--that sounds as if it comes from a former Eagle Scout and president of the Boy Scouts of America, because it does.
The title apparently refers to his experiences on a Time Newstour. On these trips, CEOs of major companies join Time magazine correspondents to tour such hard-to-enter places as Cuba and Vietnam. But little of the book actually is devoted to the trip--it's more about Augustine's travels through life. For example, we find out how at Princeton University, a drunken upperclassman persuaded him to switch majors from geological engineering to aeronautical engineering. At the time, the inebriate was standing between railcars, retching, and being restrained from falling by Augustine, who had ahold of the drunk's belt. Today, Augustine has come full circle, having stepped down as CEO earlier this year to take a Princeton teaching position.
Occasionally, the book delves into serious topics. Augustine believes companies need a strong ethical sense, which he defines as not being afraid to give your pet parrot to the town gossip. He advocates hiring good people, telling them what you want, and getting out of their way. He wants U.S. intelligence agencies to provide U.S.-based companies with a database on foreign companies and markets. He defends reengineering, arguing that there are only two kinds of businesses: ''those that are changing and those that are going out of business.'' And he offers a 21st century corporate-governance model, which includes directors with more international and technical experience, more cyberspace than face-to-face board meetings, and director compensation that's largely stock-based.
If you want to learn how to run a sprawling, $30 billion corporation such as Lockheed Martin, this book won't help much. If, on the other hand, you're lying on the beach on your winter vacation and want some Dave Barry-like belly laughs about business and management, this book is for you.
BY STAN CROCK
Updated Dec. 18, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1997, Bloomberg L.P.