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Elon Musk’s advice for when you’re dragged into useless meetings

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk waves as he leaves a stage after speaking
Reuters/Brian Snyder
Tesla CEO Elon Musk says stop it with the useless meetings.
  • Lila MacLellan
By Lila MacLellan

Quartz at Work senior reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Were Elon Musk to write a guide to business etiquette, it would likely be a slim volume, though a lively read, if his recent email to employees is any guide.

Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla, is reportedly pushing to double production, beginning in June, of the company’s Model 3 compact car, an ambitious goal seen as a response to the money-losing company’s current struggle to hit production targets, and to the threat of a cash crunch.

But Musk has a vision of how it can be done, one he outlined to staff in a lengthy memo sent to staff and obtained by the news site Electrek.

Much of the note was devoted to Musk’s plans to cut costs and improve efficiency—“I have been disappointed to discover how many contractor companies are interwoven throughout Tesla. Often, it is like a Russian nesting doll of contractor, subcontractor, sub-subcontractor, etc. before you finally find someone doing actual work,” he wrote.

In addition to putting suppliers on notice, Musk offered up some productivity tips to help Tesla workers stay focused on their manufacturing goal, but really they could apply to managers and conscientious employees everywhere. For example: “Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes … We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function” at work, and, “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.”

But perhaps Musk’s most noteworthy recommendations were the ones focused on the scourge of useless meetings, which seems to be as big a problem at Tesla as it is at other companies. 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.


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