Every company, no matter what the size, will more often than not have a hierarchy of figure heads that lead the charge in their respective departments. The thought of segmentation, on it’s surface, makes a lot of sense from an organizational perspective, but the culture that it breeds can lead to a lack of morale for a variety of reasons, including the feeling of never being heard. Managers often times get caught up in the daily hustle of going through the motions that they allow ideas from their team to slip through the cracks, or even worse – never be heard.
Confirmed by Tesla as an unpublished email from Elon Musk to his employees, the company’s founder discusses the importance of communication and how the balance of power can actually hurt a company because of antiquated thinking that allows only a manager to talk to his superior about the inner workings of his or her department, which is then rallied up to that person’s higher up and ultimately not only does the message get lost in translation, but the time in which this information is processed and shared renders it less effective. The solution? allow every employee the power to broadcast his or her message to any colleague, no matter the rank.
Subject: Communication Within Tesla
There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. 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.
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