It makes sense that Elon Musk, whose businesses are based on throwing out existing industry rulebooks and going his own way, doesn’t have much use for a customary office hierarchy.
In an email sent to the Tesla staff obtained by Inc., Musk explains how a communication pattern that funnels power to just one leader can be harmful to innovation.
“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,” Musk writes. “The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.”
He explains that if a problem arises, the chain of command method requires the person who recognizes it to elevate it to their manager, who then speaks to another manager on their level in another department, who then addresses it with the person who handles that issue on their team. That process, he explains, is inherently flawed. “This is incredibly dumb. Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company,” Musk warns. “No kidding.”
So, what is the solution? Don’t create artificial barriers between your company’s departments. Just do what you can to solve the problem in the most expedient way possible. And that could even mean going right to the top.
“You can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else’s permission,” Musk explains. “Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not to encourage 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.”
He says he believes that the growth of the business, not the inner workings of your department relative to to others within the company, should be every employee’s main concern. “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,” cautions Musk. “We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept.”
What kind of communication strategies do you employ in your office? Let us know on social media or in the comments.