Elon Musk’s 7 Rules for Better Efficacy

It is no secret that Elon Musk gets a lot done. Like, a lot lot. From the Boring company (with its fancy flamethrowers) to PayPal and Tesla, not to mention the seXy space program of SpaceX, this South-African born entrepreneur knows a thing or two about getting down to business and not wasting any time. Due to a recent slump in his company stock prices, he went ahead and actually did something about putting the shareholders back at ease. What did he do exactly? He advised his staff on how to work smarter and more efficiently to put the new Tesla car on the market faster. See if you can apply his magic rules to your work and actually work smarter, not harder in your job.


So what’s on Musk’s cure-all list of corporate efficacy?

Get rid of the big meetings

First off, he wants your company to axe the meetings. We’ve all seen that meme: “I’ve been to another meeting that should’ve been an email.” Well, he’s blunt about it:

“Please get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.”

Is it a thought-up rule, just to endear himself to his underlings? No, it turns out. According to one study, just knowing you have a meeting coming up makes you want to prepare for it. Even if there is nothing to do before a meeting, you try to find ways of preparing and lose actual productive time in the process. Do away with that next boring stand-up meeting? Heck yeah!

Reduce the frequency of the meetings

What if you can’t remove that time sink because it has been so deeply ingrained in your company culture? In that case, Elon says, you should just organize them as seldom as possible. “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.” Sound advice, that! You’d think that consistent meetings are a good thing, but some entrepreneurs prefer to keep them as infrequent as possible, opting for a quick online talk instead. You should probably use email more often, too!

If you are not needed somewhere, leave

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,” says Musk. You may think it’s impolite or that it may have dire repercussions. On the other hand, letting down your customer is a greater risk. If some of your co-workers or superiors frown upon you leaving, let them know it was to make sure you deliver your actual work to benefit the customer.

Avoid jargon and acronyms

Corporate world speaks its own language, that’s nothing new. From ASAP to EOB, you’d probably be able to express a page’s worth of information in just 4 or 5 abbreviations. But here’s the thing; if you start to use your professional language to communicate in other circles, this may actually hurt your conversation. “Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes […]. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication,” says Musk. It’s a very simple idea, but one that we may need to be reminded of now and then. It’s not obvious to everyone what happens if a PM doesn’t prep an HO by the DL, and why his SPM will lose her rug – if you need to explain it, it is not the recipient’s fault. It’s yours!

Simplify the company structure

Agile and lean philosophy is all the rage, but sometimes the specifics of what it is about can escape the C-suite. One easy way to improve effectiveness is loosening the company hierarchy. The pecking order should not exist in the first place, but if it does, you need to ask yourself: does it do anyone any good? Is your company an army, is it a democracy? Does it need to have a name and framework that resembles some building, or can it simply function with its great people, company culture and core values? If it cannot exist without one person reporting to another one, reporting to yet another one, there is at least one person in that chain who acts just as an intermediary – adding nothing to the company’s value. That person should have other things to do than just relaying messages or acting as an expensive one-way telephone. Maybe try holacracy or horizontal management? “Often, it is like a Russian nesting doll of contractor, subcontractor, sub-subcontractor, etc. before you finally find someone doing actual work. This means a lot of middle-managers adding cost but not doing anything obviously useful,” says Musk, clearly unhappy with such a waste of resources and effort.

Simplify the company communication

As you can see, most of Musk’s messages are already quite on point and follow the same trend of simplification and straightforward thinking. This one is no different. Musk advises to “allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen…” It’s just common sense, but it is lost often in the bureaucratic approach often adopted at larger MNCs. At times you may hesitate to contact that high and mighty executive. Perhaps they have no time to micro-manage you, and you’ll just be a pain in the back? But perhaps it’s them who should decide if what you’re coming with is important or not. It’s up to you to get that message across using the above techniques – simplicity, no jargon and a short chat are what is always better in the longer run.

Don’t follow silly rules

Many companies have a variety of outdated, crazy rules that don’t exist for any particular reason, other than because no one questioned them or forgot to remove them once they became obsolete. It may be the case that you are required to log the same activity into many trackers or time sheets. If that isn’t the very definition of time-waster, I don’t know what is; at some point you need to forego unnecessary rules and let someone with the power to change this know that it is, indeed, a waste of everyone’s valuable time. “Always pick common sense as your guide. 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,” offers Musk on the subject.

So there you have it, straight from the prize horse’s mouth. It’s not rocket science, even if it comes from the world’s most charming rocket mogul: fewer meetings, simpler lingo, flatter structure, straightforward communication and no silly rules. What’s next: performance reviews that actually improve performance? What a time to be alive!


to get sth done – załatwić coś
fancy – wymyślny, fantazyjny
flamethrower – miotacz ognia
entrepreneur – przedsiębiorca
to get down to business – przejść do sedna sprawy
slump – gwałtowny spadek
stock price – cena akcji
shareholder – udziałowiec
to put sb at ease – uspokoić kogoś
staff – pracownicy
to advise sb on sth – poradzić komuś w jakiejś kwestii
cure-all – panaceum
efficacy – wydajność
to get rid of sth – pozbyć się czegoś
to axe sth – zlikwidować coś, usunąć
blunt – nie owijający w bawełnę, obcesowy
to provide sth to sth – wnosić coś do czegoś
audience – odbiorcy, słuchacze
to turn out – okazać się
to come up – nadchodzić, zbliżać się
to do away with sth – pozbyć się czegoś
stand-up – tu: cykliczne spotkanie, stand-up (np. codzienny)
heck yeah! – o tak! (pot.)
frequency – częstotliwość
time sink – strata czasu
deeply ingrained in sth – głęboko zakorzeniony w czymś, na stale zapisany w czymś
seldom – rzadko
to deal with sth – poradzić sobie z czymś, zając się czymś
urgent – pilny
rapidly – szybko
to resolve sth – rozwiązać coś
sound – dobry, mocny
consistent – konsekwentny, stały
infrequent – rzadki
to walk out of sth – wyjść z czegoś
to drop off sth – wypaść z czegoś, odłączyć się
dire – zły, tragiczny
repercussions – reperkusje
to let sb down – zawieść kogoś
superior – przełożony
to frown upon sth – źle na coś patrzeć, nie aprobować czegoś
to benefit sb – przynieść komuś korzyść
acronym – akronim, skrótowiec
ASAP (as soon as possible) – jak najszybciej
EOB (end of business) – koniec dnia roboczego
a page’s worth of sth – ilość czegoś, która mogłaby się zmieścić na stronie
to inhibit sth – zaburzać coś, utrudniać
to remind – przypominać
to prep – przygotować (pot.)
HO (hand-off) – materiały do pracy/produkcji
DL (deadline) – termin ostateczny
to lose one’s rug – wściec się
fault – wina
agile – zwinny, elastyczny
lean – smukły, chudy
X is all the rage – X jest teraz modny
specifics – szczegóły czegoś
C-suite – dyrektorzy, szczebel rady nadzorczej
to loosen sth – poluźnić coś
pecking order – porządek dziobania
in the first place – po pierwsze, w ogóle
not to do sb any good – nie przynieść nikomu korzyści
framework – struktura, ramy
to resemble sth – przypominać coś
to exist – istnieć
to report to sb – mieć kogoś jako przełożonego
intermediary – pośrednik
to relay sth – przekazać coś
one-way – jednostronny, w jedną stronę
holacracy – holakracja
Russian nesting doll – matrioszka
contractor – wykonawca
middle-manager – menadżer średniego szczebla
to add cost – generować koszty
unhappy with sth – niezadowolony z czegoś
resources – zasoby
on point – bezpośredni, jasno wyrażony
straightforward – prosty, bezpośredni
flow – przepływ
dept (department) – dział (w firmie)
contributor – tu: pomysłodawca, ktoś, kto zgłasza jakiś pomysł
VP (vice president) – wiceprezes
dumb – głupi
common sense – zdrowy rozsądek
MNCs (multinational companies) – wielkie spółki międzynarodowe (UK)
to hesitate to do sth – wahać się coś zrobić
high and mighty – wysoko postawiony i wpływowy
to micro-manage sb – zarządzać czyimś każdym działaniem
pain in the back – ból głowy, utrapienie
to get sth across – przekazać coś
chat – pogawędka
in the longer run – na dłuższą metę
to question sth – podważyć coś, podawać w wątpliwość
obsolete – zbędny
tracker – dziennik czynności/aktywności
time sheet – karta kontrolna (ewidencji czasu pracy)
the very definition of sth – najlepszy przykład na coś
to forego sth – odpuścić coś, zrezygnować z czegoś
valuable – wartościowy
guide – tu: kompas
ridiculous – niedorzeczny
straight from the horse’s mouth – prosto ze źródła, z pierwszych ust
sth is not rocket science – coś nie jest niczym szczególnie trudnym
charming – czarujący
mogul – potentat
lingo – żargon, język (pot.)
performance review – ocena wyników pracownika

by Prochor Aniszczuk

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