Elon Musk is famed for his unconventional management style. Photo / Getty Images
31 Aug, 2017 2:43pm by: Frank Chung
Elon Musk is famed for his unconventional management style.+
The South African-born entrepreneur behind companies including Tesla and SpaceX has described himself not as a micromanager but a “nano-manager”, news.com.au reports.
Musk works about 100 hours per week at the electric carmaker and involves himself in even the tiniest aspects of the business – and this email, sent by Musk to Tesla employees several years ago, shows how.
In the email, published by Inc Magazine, the eccentric billionaire outlines his approach to communication inside the company.
“There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies,” he writes. “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.”
Inc Magazine’s Justin Bariso argues that while he’s a “huge fan” of the message the email conveys, it’s “easier said than done”. “Communication that is forced to go through the ‘proper channels’ is a recipe for killing great ideas and burying the feedback that a company needs to thrive,” Bariso writes.
“There’s only one problem with Musk’s proposed solution: it’s extremely difficult to cultivate in the real world. Of course, leaders have to set the example. That means looking beyond individual achievements and key performance indicators, which takes courage, insight, and emotional intelligence. It means making yourself available to hear as many voices as possible.”