One year ago, Elon Musk released his Master Plan, Part Deux -- his declaration of Tesla's future projects. When he published the document to the company web page last year, several people rightly noted some stand-out features of the text itself: It's short, clear, and mostly jargon-free.

These three characteristics fly in the face of many more traditional strategic plans -- nevermind the actual content. The typical process for putting together a strategic plan is something like this: a well-intended leader brings a senior group together. Over weeks or months, they hold long meetings filled with lofty conversations. In the end, the main points are written down in a lengthy and dense document for no one ever to read again. The plan sits on a shelf while everyone goes back to business as usual.

The alternative is to create something like Musk and his team did. A document that is so focused and clear that they can easily get most, if not all employees to read and understand the plan. This way, no one will be surprised when Musk follows up with communications tying back to his stated goals:

"Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage

Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments

Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning

Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it"

So, Musk's plan itself demonstrates his strong communication skills and commitment to gaining understanding and buy-in over some perceived benefit one might get with a fancier, less readable plan.

Since then, what communication techniques has he used? The same used in his plan: simple, clear language, plus three essential techniques you can use too.

  • Frequency: Musk tweets at least once a day. He mixes Tesla and innovation updates with articles and retweets. He makes it known that he's an active participant in an ongoing conversation in his industry.
  • Tense: Must often uses the present tense when speaking to a crowd. Increase the use of present tense when talking about visionary topics. This language trick excites the listener into feeling the future is now.
  • Tone: Musk is likened to Steve Jobs in his ability to convert complex concepts into easy-to-understand language and do so in an authentic voice. Public speaking is a strength for him. If public speaking isn't a strength for (like it certainly isn't for me), continuous practice can help you sound more like yourself.

Improving communication is achievable, and you can look to Elon Musk for inspiration. Using short documents with clear, simple language is one important way to convey your vision. In between plans, you can keep your employees, investors, and customers up-to-date with frequent messages that echo that plan. Using the present tense and an authentic tone helps further ensure your message gets through and sticks.

Published on: Aug 1, 2017
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