*With Apologies to Augustine’s Laws


 I am a big fan of Norm Augustine’s Laws. Borrowing his style, I offer these tongue-in-cheek observations from my time at a university.

  1.  10 pounds of execution is worth 100 pounds of expertise.

  2. Out-of-the-box solutions must first start with a definition of the box.

  3. Overlapping functions and levels in an organization serve a purpose. If it were not so, anyone could communicate.

  4. The gulf between generating great ideas and supporting solutions based on those ideas is deep and wide.

  5. When organization identity is a moving target, it may also help to move the organization.

  6. Any new initiative must follow certain rules, if they can be discovered.

  7. We are all one big happy family, until we endeavor to act like it.

  8. Sound business practices are necessary for the continued existence of for-profit organizations. Lest there be confusion, one must be reminded that a university is not a for-profit

  9. Committees defy the First Law of Thermodynamics, i.e. the heat supplied is greater than the net work done.

  10. No act of reaching across campus to communicate with other entities shall go unpunished. The severity of the punishment depends on the sincerity of the communication attempt.

  11. Deadlines will drive one of two behaviors – a sharp increase in activity, or the disappearance of all activity.

  12. Understanding university politics and solving a Rubik’s Cube have some similarities. The difference is, one can obtain solutions for the latter.

  13. The wisdom of saying “we will try something new” depends on who is saying it.

  14. The importance of time is highly overrated, especially as it applies to the start of a scheduled meeting.

  15. In a large, diverse organization, information distribution is challenging for people in stovepipes. However, it can be virtually non-existent for the people in the stove.

  16. Any outside entity contracting with a university must be aware of a co-existing, parallel universe. It is called the academic calendar.

  17. It is easy to get a decision, unless you really need it.

  18. All employees are empowered to pursue innovative ideas. The definition of innovative will be determined after the pursuit is well established.

  19. Ego is derived from the ideal gas law, i.e. it expands to fill the volume of the room it occupies. A corollary is that volume is reduced commensurate with the presence of other egos.

  20. The term project urgency is only relevant before it is communicated to your colleagues, or when communicated to you by your boss.

  21. Parkinson’s law says that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. At a university the opposite is also true, i.e. work contracts so as to not fill the time not available for its completion.

  22. There are more difficult processes than defining and approving a new facility on campus, but none that don’t require an act of Congress.

  23. Email is the last, best hope for communication between professionals. Unfortunately, Sent Mail by itself does not constitute email.

  24. A National Academy membership is the second highest honor that can be bestowed on a distinguished academic. The highest honor is a reserved parking space.