It seemed the world was watching as Tesla pushed to hit a production level of 5,000 Tesla Model 3's per week (the number reportedly required to hit profitability--although overall the company is still posting jaw-dropping losses). Now successful in blowing by that critical production plateau, a new problem has surfaced for Tesla and Elon Musk

Shipping all those cars.

Electrek reported two weeks ago that parking lots all over California have been spotted filled with Tesla 3's. Naysayers pointed out that it's a sign of soft demand, but Electrek later reported that it's a logistics issue, that deliveries are now the bottleneck with production surging.

In response to this, Tesla began testing a direct-from-factory-to-customers home delivery system. It allows the company to skip steps like waiting for trailers to fill with cars, hauling the cars to Tesla stores, and getting stuck in transit in between.

When Devin Scott received his new Model 3 at his home (the first such customer to do so in this test) more than just his shiny blue car emerged from an enclosed trailer. Elon Musk himself stepped out to hand-deliver the car to Scott.


Your first reaction might be, "Yet another PR ploy from an egomaniac." Maybe. Or maybe you'd prefer I point out Musk's recent botches on the PR front. Those have annoyed me too.

But for this article, I want to focus on the fact that this is an example of a company and leader that excels at first focusing on and solving one big problem before getting ahead of themselves in trying to solve the next one.

One problem at a time.

It's also an example of a leader willing to roll up his sleeves and stay involved at each phase of problem-solving--all while continually pushing for creativity along the way.

To that point, Tesla is reportedly testing a five-minute new car pickup process for customers at Tesla stores. Show up to get your new car and leave five minutes later, armed with videos you can watch in your Tesla to teach you how to operate it. I've had many experiences where I went to pick up a new car and the process seemed to last three times longer than it should have. So, bravo.

It's worth reiterating that as a leader, it's important to focus your organization on solving one big problem at a time, renewing energy and creativity with each subsequent problem to solve. It's so easy to get ahead of things and try to solve for everything all at once. I'm not saying don't plan ahead and parallel path solution-crafting for multiple known problems when it makes sense. I'm saying don't let your organization get ahead of itself.

Musk has publicly stated that the delivery system would soon be the bottleneck. And yet he kept the team laser-focused on first solving a gargantuan production problem.

Now he's turning energy towards the next issue (logistics/delivery) and is role-modeling the other important takeaway for leaders: to keep visibly rolling up your sleeves to help with each new problem. I personally suspect Musk was part of the direct-to-customer test because he personally wanted to see how the experience went--not necessarily wanting to grab a bit more of the spotlight.

So while you may not have to solve for an entire car shipping system, you can still tune up your one-problem-at-a time leadership.

Published on: Aug 6, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.