Elon's Productivity Tips for Tesla Are Genius, Might Work for Your Business Too

Tesla employees celebrating production milestone in Fremont, California 20 photos
Photo: Tesla Motors
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About three weeks ago, one of Elon Musk's emails sent to Tesla employees was leaked. It included several productivity tips, and it appeared to be made up. It did not take long for Elon to confirm that the email was true. Another part of that email also involved a new measure to enforce a company policy. After you read them, you can understand why Tesla is where it is today.
Elon Musk often mentioned sleeping at the office to avoid wasting time on his commute and to get more work done. While not present in the email, it is something that Elon had previously shared on Twitter, and I have not heard about it from any other boss of an automaker because nobody else does this. It may not be the best practice in the industry, though it is clearly not the worst.

To be clear, I do not support sleeping at the office to increase efficiency, even if you are the CEO of a company, as the health risk of doing so in the long run far outweighs any potential benefit. You can have a great work ethic without spending the night at the office, your family will appreciate it, and your employees might feel less intimidated by you, IMHO.

It is time for Elon's productivity tips, which can be viewed in video form in one of Casey Neistat's fantastic vlogs embedded below. I watched the video when it came out and have been thinking of writing about this ever since.

I have waited just a bit more than usual to see if the account that published the rules in the first place will still be on Twitter a few days after those messages were posted. Well, it is still alive and kicking, and I embedded one of the tweets below.

Leaked email from Elon Musk
Photo: Screenshot from Twitter post by alex_avoigt, unspecified source
The first productivity recommendation from Elon Musk to Tesla employees involves refraining from holding big meetings. Unless the entire audience gets value out of them, the meetings must be cut "very short," and there should ideally be no large meetings at all. The same applies to frequent meetings – unless urgent matters are being attended, but they must be eliminated once the urgency is gone.

The second piece of advice from Elon might shock people from the rest of the corporate world, but Musk advises Tesla employees to leave meetings or drop off calls as soon as it is obvious that you are not adding value.

He even explains that it is not rude to leave, but it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time. Micromanagers across the world might have had a small heart attack when reading that one.

The third rule is to refrain from using acronyms or nonsense words for any object, process, or software at Tesla. While seeming strange, the idea is to prevent anyone from having to look up terms in a glossary or stop the discussion to ask what the previous speaker was trying to say earlier.

Elon Musk presentation for Tesla Shareholders Meeting 2021
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube Live video by Tesla
The genius part about this tip is that people who normally might not understand said acronyms often refrain from asking and leave the meeting without knowing what they need to do or what the issue is in the first place.

Another productivity tip from Elon involves getting the shortest path of communication for an issue to get the job done as soon as possible, without speaking to managers, as well as the promise that any manager who attempts to enforce such a policy on communication will "soon find themselves working elsewhere."

Harsh, Elon, but at least get people to have an email trail of those discussions. Otherwise, it will all be up to personal memory, as well as who tells the most compelling story when an issue reappears, and someone must be made responsible for it.

Remember, kids, your colleague from some other department might want to get off the hook for their mistake. Ask them to confirm what they want from you in writing, as well, just to be on the safe side.

Giga Texas Cyber Rodeo
Photo: Tesla
Despite this, Elon insists that a major source of issues is poor communication between departments. He thinks that allowing people to speak between themselves at all levels is key to preventing issues, but it may also mean that a junior on their second day at work might want to speak to the product lead and propose something that has already been disapproved, thus wasting the latter's time.

Fortunately, Elon has a rule for that, as well, and it relies on people's common sense. The latter should be a guide, and if company rules are "obviously ridiculous in a particular situation," "such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change." Easy, right? Well, it sounds brilliant if you ask me.

An alternative view of this is a rule of thumb that says that if one person on the road is tailgating you, they are the problem. If everyone is tailgating you, the problem is you, not everyone.

Musk also encourages employees to contact a specific co-worker if they have something that they think can be improved for the benefit of the company or just to make them look forward to coming to work more. We are curious to learn if anyone requested sleeping bags for their offices, and we are not even kidding about this one.

Giga Texas Cyber Rodeo
Photo: Tesla
Two other rules, which are not just suggestions, refer to how Tesla will count its vehicles as delivered – and this may affect year-end results, but Elon's proposed method will yield more accurate figures.

The other rule is a reinforcement of the company's no discount policy, which will now have to involve a report for every vehicle sold for less than the list price with the reasoning for the decision. Elon Musk noted that he would review the list personally. The company's goal, in his view, is to get that list to zero items.

According to Elon, the only acceptable reasons for a discount involve floor models, vehicles used in test drives, and vehicles damaged before delivery. Those are the only situations where you can get a discount on your new Tesla, and Elon is going to learn if the sales specialist gets you a discount that does not fall into the three situations.

With all these recommendations above, you can see that most of them might apply to almost any business and that it is free to try out the new system. It may not be perfect, but it worked for Tesla, so there is something to it, right?

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Editor's note: For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows images of Tesla vehicles and Elon Musk.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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