In a push for profitability at his Tesla plants, Elon Musk recently sent a detailed memo to his staff outlining a series of measures intended to help the company ramp up production scale, slash costs, and boost quality. 

Musk caps off his no-punches-pulled memo with a list of pithy productivity tips. Among his suggestions for boosting productivity is this two-word nugget: "Avoid jargon."

Here's what he says about this:

"Don't use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don't want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla."

The brilliance of Musk's exhortation to avoid using jargon lies in its universal applicability. This is advice any business leader could--and frankly should--give its employees. Replace the two mentions of "Tesla" in this statement with whatever company name you prefer and the advice still holds.

Another reason why Musk's advice is stunning derives from the fact that it was delivered to the employees of a company that produces one of the most technologically complex products on the planet: electric vehicles. 

Complex and highly technical jargon and acronyms must be positively pervasive at Tesla. This is a company ruled by engineers, no? Yet Musk is telling everyone they can be even more effective communicators, and therefore more productive manufacturers of electric vehicles, if they ditch the terminology and use plainer and clearer words.

To quote Musk's advice once more, "In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication." Jargon and acronyms are barriers to communication and are also, therefore, barriers to productivity.

By Musk's logic, clearer communication at Tesla will lead to higher productivity, which will help them build more cars in a shorter period of time, generating higher profits per vehicle. 

The question remains, of course: Will Tesla's employees take up the challenge and start replacing their technical terms and insider vocabulary with clearer and more readily understandable language?

I would love to see a follow-up memo from Musk that acknowledges progress along this front. 

In the meantime, hopefully more business leaders out there will heed his advice and encourage their people to write with greater clarity, accessibility, and impact. 

And less jargon.

Published on: Apr 20, 2018