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Productivity Insights from a Tech Giant


Disruptive Musings from Elon Musk

Elon Musk is one of the most prolific innovators of the 21st century. His list of inventions includes an electric car, a rocket, a hyper-speed train, an electronic payment system, solar powered roof shingles and more. Underneath his Herculean efforts in innovation lies an equally monumental accomplishment in productivity. What he dreams he does.

This balance of new ideas and excellent execution leads to ongoing disruption. So, when Elon Musk released an internal memo, obtained by Electrek on April 17, 2018, the business world was listening. While the memo focused on the doubling of production for the Tesla Model 3, it contained some great insight on what it takes to stay productive in a corporate environment.

Here are six points that Musk called “a few productivity recommendations.”

1. Cancel large meetings

"Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you're certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short."

2. Get rid of frequent meetings

"Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved."

3. Walk out of meetings

"Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time."

4. Stop using meaningless words or acronyms

"Don't use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don't want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla."

5. Communicate directly to get the job done

"Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the 'chain of command'. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.”

"A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen."

6. Use common sense over company rules

"In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a 'company rule' is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change."

It is not surprising that the great disruptor would consider corporate disruption necessary to advance his agenda to double production in manufacturing. Perhaps we would all benefit from a new dose of meeting cancellations, clear communication, and common sense. After all, no one wants to be the star of a Dilbert cartoon.


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