Five myths businesses make when it comes to strategy execution
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This week we read a Harvard Business Review article (March 2017) by Donald and Charles Sull and Rebecca Homkes that provided five myths businesses make when it comes to strategy execution. The two myths that I think best fits with my case study Tesla are: Communication equals understanding (Myth #3) and execution should be driven from the top (Myth #5).
When it comes to communication, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is highly direct, strict and honest with customers, donors and employees. In an article by the Business Insider titled “These are eight strict workplace rules Elon Musk makes his Tesla employees follow,” the details of Musk’s harsh, yet necessary, rules were shared, many to increase efficiency and employees’ time management:
- Large-format meetings wastes people’s time. “Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [rid] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short,” Musk said in an email to employees. 2. Meetings should be infrequent, unless it’s urgent. 3. If you don’t need to be in a meeting, leave. 4. Avoid confusing jargon. 5. Don’t let hierarchical structures make things less efficient. “Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command’. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere,” Musk said in his internal letter. 6. If you need to get in touch with someone, do so directly. 7. Don’t waste time following silly rules. “In general, always pick common sense as your guide. 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.” 8. Don’t leak to the press under any circumstances.
Musk stresses the use of common sense, which sometimes can still get lost at some businesses. Large-format meetings are a waste of people’s time to actually execute the work. The truth for Tesla is just that; I feel like if Musk can be honest with his employees about his expectations that he deserves the same in return from employees, even if it means that Tesla isn’t the workplace environment for them.
For Myth #5 even Musk finds that to be false according to rules #5 and #6 above. I think influence should come from the top; not execution. But Musk brings up a good point about directly communicating with someone as it can help prevent miscommunication. It’s like the telephone-line game: You pass the message on from one person to the next, and by the time it gets to that last person, it’s a totally different message. A business cannot successfully run this way.
As stated before, the influence should come from the top. Musk communicates his simple business strategy, and it is the duty of his employees to execute his plan outlined in a Mission.org article from April 2017:
- Build sports car 2. Use that money to build an affordable car 3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car 4. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options 5. Don’t tell anyone.