Elon Musk’s Internal Communication Is Huge Key To Tesla’s Success

2 months ago by EVANNEX 9

Tesla Model 3

Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the Model 3 handover event

ELON MUSK: TESLA’S INTERNAL COMMUNICATION PROTOCOL CAN CHALLENGE BIG AUTO INERTIA

Recently, Inc. Magazine got their hands on an internal memo from Elon Musk that went out to Tesla employees.

Much has been made of Musk’s ability to disrupt Big Auto with Tesla’s supercharger network, electric vehicle battery advantage, solar/storage push, and vehicle autonomy prowess. That said, this memo outlines a much more mundane point of differentiation — improving internal staff communication at Tesla.

Tesla

Infographic showcasing a few fun factoids about Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk (Instagram: propertynerds)

Although a memo like this might seem typical from a traditional corporate executive, Musk’s memo is shockingly atypical and right-in-line with his disruptive nature. Check it out below…

Subject: Communication Within Tesla

There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.

Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.

Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager’s manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility.

One final point is that managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept.

Thanks, 
Elon

Could Tesla’s communication protocol challenge Big Auto’s lumbering, bureaucratic boardroom culture? The communication experts at PR Daily think that Musk’s motto is: “chain of command be damned.”

Furthermore, “The notions expressed in this [memo] are controversial, to say the least. By allowing—encouraging, even—workers to sidestep their boss if they have an issue or an idea, Musk makes mincemeat of middle managers, in some eyes, at least. Such a bold strategy could sow communications chaos as well.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

Tesla

Another recent magazine cover encapsulates Musk’s disruptive, risk-taking approach (Facebook: Fast Company)

On the other hand, it might be refreshing if more workplaces had, “an environment of open, egalitarian communication… It requires uncommon levels of trust, empathy and teamwork.

As Musk notes, everyone at Tesla is ‘in the same boat,’ but workers often feel pitted against one another. Silos, competition and fear prevent productive dialogue and collaborative problem-solving… [Musk’s] exhortation to slash red tape and discard stodgy notions of top-down decorum may have merit.” So perhaps he has a point. After all, Elon Musk is, himself, a communication wizard.

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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9 responses to "Elon Musk’s Internal Communication Is Huge Key To Tesla’s Success"

  1. PP says:

    This is BTW exactly the same method Nokia used to grow from zero to the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world in just a few years. Too bad the lessons were forgotten once they got too comfortable.

    1. Peter says:

      That is a fact and has happened a lot of times. But very few keep this strategy unfortunately.

      I think Elon will.

  2. MJC says:

    I’ve had an opportunity to work with SpaceX from 2010-2013. When visiting their HQ in Hawthorne, which functioned as the manufacturing center, R&D and corporate management all in one, it was remarkable that their administrative area was one huge cubicle city where most of their senior engineers and some management worked (incidentally, most of those guys were in their 20’s). The far corner cubicle was Elon’s. There were offices in the area but he chose to be in one of the cubicles. I peeped in and there he was sitting, hunched over checking his email, completely in a trance. It was remarkable that he wanted to be with his engineers and be right in the middle of all the important work instead of separated in the office. By the way, they had an awesome cafeteria, coffee bar, frozen yogurt stand… free to all workers and a statue of Iron Man and a wheel of cheese that was on board the first Dragon… pretty cool.

    1. Mister G says:

      Elon is God LOL…in a good way.

  3. Bar says:

    This is how it works at Netflix too… where teams are “loosely coupled, but highly aligned”.

    1. Bonaire says:

      I work with a lot of other types of companies. Silos are the way it goes within many industries – especially finance.

      Now, I have also read in Indeed reviews of Tesla about overbearing and critical managers of some employees, where silos would seem to have been built. Go read some of them. Perhaps Elon is working on killing that culture of over-worked employees, scared of their managers who cannot seem to make change happen. Some of the Indeed reviews make it feel like you would only want to work at Tesla if you can’t find a job elsewhere. Long hours, limited pay, everything rides on stock options and you must be assimilated…

  4. Kosh says:

    Meh, this is just SOP in the software industry.

    1. Aaron says:

      Tell that to the management where I work… in the software industry.

  5. Chris says:

    He is doing what any good CEO should do and that is breaking down the “tribes” and making the company (Tesla) the tribe. Humans are tribal by nature and this can have extremely detrimental effects in business when one tribe fights are slows down the other tribe. I would like to think this is common knowledge but unfortunately it is not.

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