Elon Musk’s two-sentence lesson to fast-track productivity
Elon Musk’s unique way of running companies has no doubt brought him to where he is today, and for him, communication remains a crucial piece of the puzzle. A couple of years ago, Musk shared a simple, two-sentence message with management employees, and it’s a piece of Tesla’s history that still rings true today.
Above: Elon Musk. Photo: Mohammed Abdelzak / Flickr Commons
Musk emailed his employees a few years back, encouraging them to avoid a traditional “chain-of-command” communication model, as Inc.com reports. Instead, Musk wants his employees to be efficient with their communications, telling them that all correspondence should take the “shortest path necessary,” regardless of what level of the business the two or more parties are involved with.
“Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the chain of command,” Musk said in the 2018 email to employees. “Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.”
Musk went on to point out in the email that if an employee must speak with their manager, who must then speak with their director, who must then speak with their department VP, the process is going to take some time — especially with how busy each of those employees likely is.
Above: Elon Musk talks about chain of command (YouTube: Inc.)
The words come off as a warning, as Inc.com notes, and seemingly one dedicated to managers. To Musk, work is often guided by efficiency, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he wants communication to take as little time and energy as possible. While the old wave of business heavily relies on chain of command, Tesla is far from the old wave.
Like Musk’s feelings on meetings, these statements also come off as a warning showing that he doesn’t care about the traditional structures of companies. If a meeting or communication can be settled in an email including only two people, then there’s no need to lump in third parties to which the issue isn’t relevant. The result, Musk has said, is wasted time.
In addition to saving time for innovation, the “shortest-path” mentality also has another key benefit.
Musk’s free corporate communication style gives autonomy to employees to make the best judgment calls and improve processes, even at the lowest levels of the company. Autonomy is often considered helpful in increasing individual motivation, as it helps employees understand that their words and actions can actually influence the company — no matter how large.
Whether you’re a Tesla employee or not, the idea may have some lessons for your company or organization. And if Musk is right, it’s probably worth considering how much time could be saved by eliminating these kinds of redundant, multi-level conversations.