This is a highly likeable email. It clearly is written by Musk. It reflect his style of speaking his mind and talking like a normal & practical engineer. Few key points:
1. The larger company is more important than their manger, their chain of command, and their department. This is a core organizational principle in helping to reduce interpersonal and interdepartmental conflict. This is mentioned in most of the emails.
2. Focus is on logical communication. If someone's input or help is required on something in order for it to be done, that employee should speak directly with the other person.
This is part of the reason startups work. People - who know what they are doing - speak to each other. This is in contrast to bloated corporate or government organizations where middle managers speak to each other about things they do not know (enough) about.
3. Trust your employees, (more than your managers). This email is very clear about how Elon would like communication in Tesla to flow. It is written so that every employee knows how things are to be done. It is also very clear that managers who try and bypass this approach in the way they run their department will no longer work there.
Prior to August 30 2017
Original Source: Inc. first published August 30 2017
Subject: Communication Within Tesla
There are two schools of thought about how information should flow within companies. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it serves to enhance the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company. [The core of most emails is reminding employees or managers that the center focus is on the comapny & its vision]
Instead of a problem getting solved quickly, where a person in one dept talks to a person in another dept and makes the right thing happen, people are forced to talk to their manager who talks to their manager who talks to the manager in the other dept who talks to someone on his team. Then the info has to flow back the other way again. This is incredibly dumb. [Musk's appeal is he always says and points out the obvious] Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.
Anyone at Tesla can and should email/talk to anyone else according to what they think is the fastest way to solve a problem for the benefit of the whole company. You can talk to your manager's manager without his permission, you can talk directly to a VP in another dept, you can talk to me, you can talk to anyone without anyone else's permission. Moreover, you should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens. The point here is not random chitchat, but rather ensuring that we execute ultra-fast and well. We obviously cannot compete with the big car companies in size, so we must do so with intelligence and agility.
One final point is that managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way. This is unfortunately a natural tendency and needs to be actively fought. How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collective? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your dept.
Read more Elon Musk emails