Tesla CEO Elon Musk Shares Advice On Productivity

Elon Musk

JUN 26 2018 BY EVANNEX 16


The pressure is on at Tesla. Elon Musk has a herculean task ahead but he doesn’t have a lot of time. With hundreds of thousands of Model 3 reservation holders waiting for their cars, Tesla needs to ramp production at an ever-increasing rate. Sure, robots play a role but Tesla staffers need to work harder (and smarter) to hit aggressive company targets. Can Team Tesla level up during crunch time?

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk (Flickr: TED Conference)

To accomplish this, Elon Musk gave some unusual advice to Tesla staffers. Business Insider (via Jalopnik) distilled Musk’s teachings from an internal email recently uncovered. What did they find? Let’s examine five key tips that anyone can use to be more productive. A word of caution though — Musk’s advice here is (somewhat) radical and could ruffle some feathers. If you’re at a traditional, conservative company: proceed with caution. Quotes below are directly from Elon Musk…

1. Don’t confuse

“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.”

2. Take shortcuts

“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.”

3. Use common sense

“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.”

4. Don’t waste time

“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.”

5. Be anti-meeting

“Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time…. [so] keep them very short. 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.”

Above: Elon Musk has also publicly discussed his anti-meeting stance and Tesla’s policies surrounding internal meetings (Youtube: Elon Musk Sound Bites)


Source: Business Insider via Jalopnik

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

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16 Comments on "Tesla CEO Elon Musk Shares Advice On Productivity"

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These advice might work with a company full of high achievers, but most companies aren’t composed of only “can-do” types. Meetings, keep people on the same page and on the same path. It’s fine for Tesla, SpaceX, Apple, Google, any startups, etc. But good luck getting that to work everywhere else.


I didn’t watch the video, but weren’t these 5 rules published here a few weeks back?


Productivity advice from a guy who’s always late? They seem sound, but the most important thing to productivity is to set a goal and timeline to meet it. If it’s not met, learn from it and leave more margin next time and reflect on why. Musk has not learned this lesson.


Setting overly ambitious goals usually does *not* hamper productivity — on the contrary: even though the goal isn’t met, the attempt tends to give better results than aiming for a less ambitious goal in the first place.

Indeed some muse that Musk’s incorrigible optimism is an important ingredient for his success…


Elon may always not meet his own lofty targets (see other articles for why he chooses aggressive schedules deliberately).

However, if one were to talk about “productivity” then we must accept that Elon has accomplished a lot. Even just limiting to Tesla and not his other companies, one can only say that his productivity is way up there.

What have you done recently?
How have you contributed to your employer?

Sparky, I practice at work exactly what you said – providing a project schedule that has margin to allow me to realistically meet it without having to put in 80 hours a week. This is because I have superiors to report to. If it was your own company or a typical Silicon Valley startup, you’d know that project goals are always aggressive to spur employees. You don’t see employees in those cases screaming unfair or agitating to form a union.


You’re defending that Musk is late every single time? If it’s anyone else you know, you wouldn’t. In my early startup days, I did set modestly lofty goals. All it did was burn out the employees and overall productivity sank (they call it brute forcing) not to mention killing the morale. I did whole lot better next time around.

Golden rule applies here: do unto others… I’d hate to work for a company that puts employees under pressure cooker time and again due to poor planning. I suspect it’s not only Musk that’s “sleeping at factory”.


At least one article I have seen was indeed defending Must for being late (almost) every single time: the justification being that only overly optimistic expectations are capable of rallying people behind any big vision…

Musk is clearly applying more pressure on himself than anyone else — so I’m not sure what “do unto others” is supposed to say here. I don’t really know, since I haven’t worked for him myself: but from the outside, it looks like he is actually more prone to infecting others with his own enthusiasm, rather than applying external pressure. If that’s indeed the case, burn-out seems far less likely.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

My workplace does the exact opposite of all of those.


Mine too.

It is amazing but this happens frequently.
Engineer A needs Engineer B from a different team to do 30mins worth of work.
They both have to inform their managers who’d then call for a 1 hour meeting to discuss the validity and ability to commit to that 30mins.

So 4 man-hours of work wasted before that 30min work even started.
Sometimes they can’t agree so a follow-up meeting is required….

scott franco

My industry has institutionalized this as “Agile” software development. Oddly, despite the name, it is usually used to slow down and institutionalize the software process. The methodology describes “scrum” meetings as daily meetings of 15 minutes only, with the participants standing so they won’t feel the temptation to drag on and on. Our company, as well as the last place I worked that did Agile, does it as a 1 hour meeting where everyone sits down.

I have watched these management fads come and go for many years. The one thing they have in common is that the managers take from the fad what they want to hear, and discard the parts they don’t. Agile/scrum means quick meetings daily? I like that daily part. Lets do that.

The funniest part is when there is an important problem that has to be solved quickly. The answer? Lets have daily meetings on the progress. That’ll speed things up. I have lost count of how many times I have seen that.


Well, depending on the situation and the mentality of the people involved, regular progress reports *can* help identify and deal with issues before they become a major time sink…

Of course an important aspect of real “Agile”, is iterating on the methodology itself too; i.e. doing what actually works, rather than just following set rituals.

Also, even poorly executed “Agile” is likely better than the old-fashioned methodologies that preceded it…


Also, I fail to see how what you describe relates to the post you are replying to? As far as I’m aware, nothing in “Agile” methodology — not even poorly executed — encourages following “chain of command”. Very much the opposite I’d say, compared to traditional methodologies…


Yours too?


1. Get back to work.


I know a “Fortune 100” company that stand to take this advice to heart.


I would add: Don’t send a dozen emails back and forth when a 5 minute phone call would solve the issue.