Love him or hate him -- sentiments in-between seem to be rare -- Elon Musk is having a very productive year.
Tesla stock currently trades at well over $1,400 per share, up from a low of approximately $360 in mid-March. Tesla's current market capitalization -- depending on how you run the numbers -- arguably makes it the most valuable automaker in the world.
Not Toyota, even though in 2019 Toyota sold more than 10 million cars and Tesla sold only 368,000.
Clearly, plenty of investors believe in Tesla's future and in Musk's ability to lead the company, however unconventional his approach may sometimes be.
Take productivity, where conventional management practices don't always apply. In a 2018 email to all Tesla employees, Musk offered six productivity recommendations.
1. Stop holding large meetings.
"Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time," Musk wrote. "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."
During the next meeting you attend, add up the hourly cost of every person in the room. Then imagine, which shouldn't be hard when you own a small business, that you're writing the check for that meeting.
Any meeting that won't directly generate revenue or cost savings -- either in the form of a key decision or a concrete plan of action -- is a waste of money.
2. Stop holding frequent meetings.
"Also get rid of frequent meetings," Musk wrote, "unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved."
No agenda should include the words "information," "recap," "review," or "discussion."
The only agenda you should have is a single bullet point: "Set product launch date," or "Select software developer for database redesign," or something that actually requires a group to make a decision.
And it should require only one meeting to make that decision.
3. Feel free to walk out of meetings.
"Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value," Musk wrote. "It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time."
Walking out of a meeting sounds, like most grand gestures, great in theory but terrible in practice. Even if the top dog says it's ok.
A better approach? Encourage your employees, if they don't feel they're adding value to a team, to talk to the team's leader after the meeting. Encourage them to offer ways they can help that don't require their presence at the meeting.
And if you're the team's leader, make sure you model the behavior you want other team leaders to exhibit. Be the first to admit an employee's physical or virtual presence is not necessary.
4. Stop using acronyms and buzzwords.
"In general," Musk writes, "anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don't want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla."
Granted, jargon is shorthand, and shorthand saves time.
But shorthand also excludes. Anyone unfamiliar with a particular buzzword or acronym has a choice: Remain quiet, or ask what it means and risk seeming unintelligent or out of the loop
One feels terrible. The other is less productive and inclusive.
Clear, simple, and to the point, especially in conversations that cross functions or departments, is how great leaders communicate. Because that ensures everyone can contribute.
5. Stop following the (communication) chain of command.
"Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the 'chain of command,'" Musk writes. "Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere."
Another tip that sounds great in theory, but difficult in practice. Most managers manage up, which means they to be caught off guard by not feeling "in the know." Only the most self-confident and self-assured leaders feel comfortable being bypassed.
Which means, if you want to benefit from the efficiency of direct communication -- communication between, say, the person who spots a problem and the right person to solve that problem -- you'll need to encourage direct communication and make people who might feel bypassed feel comfortable with the situation.
And you'll need to make sure that you don't appear to need to know everything -- because if you do, then the people who work for you will, too.
6. Stop limiting communication between departments.
"A major source of issues is poor communication between departments," Musk writes. "The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels.
"If, in order to get something done between departments, 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 must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen."
Can't argue with that. But don't just encourage direct communication. Require direct communication.
7. Stop following stupid rules.
"In general, always pick common sense as your guide," Musk writes. "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."
One way to build a common sense culture is to play "Kill a Stupid Rule." It's easy. Just ask:
"If you could kill or change all the stupid rules that get in the way of better serving our customers or just doing your job, what would they be and how would you do it?"
Then prove you're willing to listen and willing to change. Change a rule you can change on the spot. Work on changing rules that might first require a change in process or workflow.
Anything you do that streamlines a process and frees up employees to do real work is time well spent -- and creates a culture where everyone stays focused on finding ways to be more productive.
Can't beat that.