An internal Tesla memo from Elon Musk on Tesla Model 3 Production was just leaked to the public. In it, there’s an excellent section on productivity, specifically around meetings and communications. From the memo:
– Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. 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. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.
– 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.
2 thoughts on “Excellent Meetings and Communications Recommendations from Tesla”
Thanks for the e-mail.
Here’s a few things to add that I’ve learned working in a corporate environment:
1. It’s simply too easy to schedule a meeting. We should place a greater burden on the organizer to come prepared to maximize everyone’s time. An agenda should be affixed to the invite or delivered ahead of time. This sets expectations and helps to eliminate the meeting before the meeting. It also allows people to delegate when appropriate and eliminate unnecessary attendees.
2. Reduce the reliance on powerpoint. Too often it is used as a presenter’s crutch and bullets are often merely read verbatim. Amazon’s approach of requiring attendees to produce a memo that everyone reads before the meeting starts is intriguing: https://conorneill.com/2012/11/30/amazon-staff-meetings-no-powerpoint/ This often eliminates the questions which are often solved on upcoming slides. It also lays the groundwork for a productive discussion vs. a one-sided presentation.
3. Protect your own time. Too often calendars look like Tetris where are day is composed of a series of meetings with no time for deep, strategic thinking. Innovation and strategic thought require long periods of uninterrupted time. We need to make time on our calendars for this. My team blocks off their Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for this when meetings are prohibited: https://youtu.be/xAKgKb00WNI
Hope this helps!