Strategy In internal Tesla memo, Elon Musk says the way most companies communicate is 'incredibly dumb'

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent an email to employees encouraging them to buck the traditional chain-of-command communications found in most companies.

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(AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)
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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is no stranger to tackling challenges — his companies work on everything from space suits to self-driving cars to miles of tunnels under Los Angeles.

They also work on communication.

In an email from Musk to Tesla employees published by Inc's Justin Bariso, Musk encourages employees to buck the traditional chain of command found in most companies, in which messages always flow through managers.

"The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company," he wrote.

He continued:

"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."

A better way, Musk wrote, is to speak to whomever you need, whenever you need, however it best serves the company.

"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," he wrote. "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."

In fact, he wrote, in the spirit of "ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well," employees should consider themselves "obligated to do so until the right thing happens."

Bariso reports the email was sent to employees "a few years ago" and that Tesla confirmed its authenticity.

When your company is at the forefront of technology and space exploration, communication might seem like an afterthought. But, as Musk apparently recognized, poor communication can set everyone back. How are you supposed to accomplish anything if you're misspeaking or your colleagues don't respect you?

If diverging from the traditional chain of command doesn't work on clearing up communication, perhaps we should wait for Musk's next project — he raised $27 million with the aim of linking human brains with computers.