Startup Advice

‘Walk out of your meetings’: Five productivity tips Elon Musk sent to Tesla employees

Dominic Powell /

Elon Musk

Elon Musk and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill in July 2017. Source: AAP/Ben Macmahon

While Elon Musk’s SpaceX keeps shooting rockets into space and his tunnel digging company The Boring Company keeps digging its tunnels, the jewel in Musk’s startup crown Tesla has ran into some problems of late as it struggles to keep up with its promised production schedule for the Model 3.

Musk initially promised a production timeline of 5000 cars a week upon the Model 3’s launch last July, however Wired reports the company is managing just 2000 per week, and has had to close down the car’s production line temporarily to “address bottlenecks”.

It was because of this shutdown that Musk sent out an email to Tesla employees last week, explaining why the plant had to be temporarily closed, but also lighting a fire under workers to hit a production rate of 6000 cars per week by June 30.

“Any Tesla department or supplier that is unable to do this will need to have a very good explanation why not, along with a plan for fixing the problem and present that to me directly. If anyone needs help achieving this, please let me know as soon as possible. We are going to find a way or make a way to get there,” Musk said in the email, reports Electrek.

Along with discussing reforms to Tesla’s precision and profit methods, Musk also provided a number of productivity tips to his employees. “Btw [by the way], here are a few productivity recommendations”, the founder said almost as an afterthought.

1. Fewer, smaller meetings

Musk’s views on meetings have been well-documented before; he reportedly told SpaceX employees unless there’s a specific purpose for a meeting, don’t have one. That advice rings true at Tesla too and this time Musk was even more forthright.

“Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short,” he said.

He also recommends holding fewer meetings unless workers are dealing with an “extremely urgent matter”.

“Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved,” he said.

2. Just walk out

Gone ahead and had that meeting anyway, but halfway through you’ve realising there’s not much reason for you to be there? Just walk out, says Musk.

“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,” he told his employees.

3. Fewer acronyms and jargon

Do you ever find yourself wondering WTF some of the acronyms your employees use are? Does your Slack channel sometimes look FUBAR? Musk isn’t having it, and neither should you.

“Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication,” he said.

“We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.”

4. Communicate efficiently, or get fired

“Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command’,” says Musk.

“Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.”

Yikes.

Thankfully Musk goes on to clarify this, explaining the multiple levels of command between various different departments can be a strong inhibitor to work getting done efficiently.

“A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels,” Musk wrote.

“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.”

5. Common sense shall prevail

Finally, despite Musk’s brouhaha over the do’s and don’ts of being productive at Tesla, he ends on a simple note: common sense will guide you well. Plus he throws in a Dilbert reference for some reason.

“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,” he said.

NOW READ: How Elon Musk got involved in South Australian SMEs’ power woes: A timeline

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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