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Not so sure about this

Here’s why experts say Musk’s email misses the mark from a leadership point of view:

The message explains that Twitter is in a perilous state and that employees need to hustle harder, and that they can no longer work from home.

“This is an example of really poor communication and leadership,” says Andrew Brodsky, assistant professor of management at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, pointing to Musk’s opening paragraph, which starts, “Sorry that this is my first email to the whole company, but there is no way to sugarcoat the message.”

Starting off with such an apology comes across as insincere, says Brodsky, an expert in workplace communication. “As the CEO and owner of the company, he has a choice of any email that he can send as his first email. If he was truly sorry, this wouldn’t be his first email.”

One is an assistant professor, who runs nothing larger than a PhD or two. The other has, by his own efforts in business, made himself the richest man in the world.

We’re going to run with which as the expert in getting the most out of a workforce?

The email Elon Musk just sent to Twitter employees is a masterclass in how not to communicate
In his first email to staff, Musk did the opposite of inspire.

Ah, right.

26 thoughts on “Not so sure about this”

  1. Dennis, Cabin Boy To The Aristocracy

    Given Musk’s intent to shrink Twitter’s workforce, perhaps his email is meant to do the opposite of inspire. The best way to clear deadwood in an organization is to get them to leave voluntarily.

  2. Allthegoodnamesaretaken

    Most academics are out of touch with the real world and have little useful to say about it.

    (This view, of course, is not conventional among academics, most of whom fancy themselves as possessing deep insight into, and special knowledge of, the workings of the economy and society. In addition to these absurd fancies, most academics also believe – even more absurdly – that they are of nobler and purer character than are the icky likes of entrepreneurs, investors, and other profit-seeking business people – people who are actually willing and able to be productive in ways judged as such by real-world consumers; ways that not one academic in 500 could possibly pull off. Academics, in general, – and like politicians – ought not be taken seriously. A shockingly large number of them are ignorant and officious fools.)

  3. The best way to clear deadwood in an organization is to get them to leave voluntarily.

    The problem with that approach is that it’s the ones who can most easily find re-employment who leave first.

    Outside of their highly specialised area of expertise, the opinion of any academic has no more validity than that of some random guy propping up the bar in your local. Probably less.

  4. The problem with that approach is that it’s the ones who can most easily find re-employment who leave first.”

    But in this case its the blue hair cat ladies and soy boys who will be appalled at Musks attitude and want to leave. Which is just what Musk wants. Normal people who have just been keeping their heads down to earn a crust but would appreciate some serious management focussing on the IT not the wokery will be incentivised to stay, especially if the previously favoured wokesters are leaving in droves. Good time to get a promotion!

  5. You all may scoff if you choose but I know which of the two I’d turn to if I wanted a powerpoint presentation on the Blake Mouton Managerial Grid!

  6. @Jim unfortunately, if what I have read is correct then Musk is not handling the IT aspect at all competently. For example, rating programmers purely on lines of code written is not likely to be an effective means to keep the best ones.

  7. @Pierre Brasseur

    You are correct in an ongoing organisation that lines of code is not a good metric. However, taking over a company where a good portion of engineers may be in a “vest and rest” mode, it could be a valid metric

  8. Dennis, Pointing Out The Obvious

    The problem with that approach is that it’s the ones who can most easily find re-employment who leave first.

    If they have been determined to be deadwood then how fast they find another job isn’t really relevant, is it?

  9. Richard Murphy is a professor at the Management School of Sheffield Uni.

    He at least has real business credentials, such as, em, importing Trivial Pursuit from Eire to the UK I believe

  10. Every communication I’ve received where I haven’t got a job/got a course place/sold an article/won a bid on ebay have always started with “We’re sorry but….” as the first three words. It’s standard communication protocol.

  11. The other has, by his own efforts in business, made himself the richest man in the world.

    Did the deal where SBF was going to lend him loads of money to buy Twitter come off?

    Not sure if that’s good or bad either way.

  12. Most people who have worked in a big business are pretty cute at deciphering the ‘real message’ in business-wide emails, company newssheets etc. Structuring the content in a ‘positive’ way or laying on the charm is seen as manipulation and deceit.

    Criticism by puffed up nobodies is an example of Musk Derangement Syndrome. Rather like Trump Derangement Syndrome, Farage Derangement Syndrome, and Boris Derangement Syndrome. I think I see a pattern.

  13. @Jim for some reason I didn’t get a notification.

    Anyway, I’m not convinced, particularly if it was simply counting lines. If some input from competent technical leads was included, plus consideration of developers’ involvement in code reviews etc. then perhaps there might be a little validity in it.

    In any case, the system is likely to be unstable as a result.

  14. “In any case, the system is likely to be unstable as a result.”

    Twitter has always been highly unstable..
    P³ is but one of many who suffer a meltdown if even the slightest hint exists that there are opinions that are contrary to theirs, and actually are allowed to get expressed….

    Oh wait.. You mean the whole hardware/software cluster?
    Not likely, unless Twitter uses some pretty exotic hardware or code to run its messageboard. And no-one except the Soybois/grrrlz would lament a critical failure of the “propriety algorythms”, the ridding of of which is the whole point of the exercise anyway….

  15. The problem with that approach is that it’s the ones who can most easily find re-employment who leave first.

    If they have been determined to be deadwood then how fast they find another job isn’t really relevant, is it?

    If you’ve determined who constitutes the deadwood in your organisation, then just fire them. The problem here is that Musk appears to be just looking to reduce headcount, by making Twitter a less cushy billet, in which case my comment applies. But Jim has a fair point, as usual.

  16. I wonder what he would make of Montgomery’s speech on taking over the 8th Army in Africa, seems an appropriate example for today

    “ I understand there has been a great deal of bellyaching out here. By bellyaching I mean inventing poor reasons for not doing what one has been told to do.

    All this is to stop at once. I will tolerate no bellyaching.

    If anyone objects to doing what he is told, then he can get out of it: and at once. I want that made very clear right down through the Eighth Army.”

  17. @Ducky The general direction Musk seems to want to take from that transcript does include seriously digging into that option.
    And given that Paypal has gone Woke Hell Incarnate with respect to a lot of things Abominable to Nuggan…
    I think that there’s an opportunity there, especially with Paypal being useless nowadays in too many ways to mention. And that’s before you trigger the Nugganites, and you efectively lose your balance with no practical way of getting it back..
    And. Musk. Knows. This.

    The thing with Musk is..
    They ridiculed him for fighting the Banks, and setting up Paypal. Yet Paypal did work, and challenged the Banks, and made them Pay Attention. The Woke thing only came after Musk left…

    They ridiculed him for his “milk floats”. Yet if you ignore the stupidity of “self-driving” , he did get electric automotive technology to the point where it is actually used in F1 and its own high-end racing class..
    He made electric cars a viable option. They won’t Save the World, but there’s plenty of places where they’re perfectly useable.

    They declared him insane for “Playing with Rockets” and challenging NASA + world.
    Yet we’ve seen the beautiful Twin Landings, and in December the first real spaceship from our boyhood dreams is scheduled to fly on its full stack..
    While NASA… errmmm… Anyone can check on Artemis and the SLS…
    (Incidentally… Any bets on SpaceX attempting an automated unmanned Moon landing when they’ve put this Spaceship though its paces? For Data Purposes?… Bonus points for a Tranquility landing for ….snapshots.. If they then manage to get up again, and land the thing Earthside…
    Lots of If’s and potential fireballs.. but… Boy…that’d be a first-rate stunt.. 😉 )

    Now they’re shouting at him for Twitter…
    But the transcript doesn’t give me the impression, as much as the MSM try to convince us, that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
    On the contrary, even…

    He’s on to something, and he might well pull it off. Again.
    If that road is paved with the Salt and crushed Ego’s of countless Soybois and Bluehaired Catladies-in-Training… That’s a Bonus.

  18. The whole lines-of-code thing… quality is more important than quantity, but only to a degree. If in the last year, someone’s lines-of-code output is four — or even four hundred — then no matter how perfect those lines of code might be, that employee been taking the piss, and if the message is that the piss will no longer be taken then it doesn’t matter how good they are they need to go. Other employees who haven’t taken the piss need to know that their dedication has been observed.

    Granted, others may need to go if their work is not up to standard, but that much harder to quantify and thus takes more time to assess. The axe has been swung, but I expect the scalpel will also have an equally dramatic — if slower — effect.

  19. Grikath – for SpaceX, Musk ended up securing a cash stream, relatively low risk, by suing the US Government for access to launches. There’s stuff floating around in his portfolio of businesses that have a similar feature, but haven’t really taken off (at least yet) – house batteries, solar roof tiles.

    The accusation is that’s a subsidy grifter, or rentier type. The float point in Tim’s other post is of this theme – to a consumer, fees aside, how the firm makes a chunk of it’s money is opaque.

    With Paypal, Musk made some decisions, and they turned out blindingly well, once it got acquired by eBay (huge amount of money, but it was stock transaction). eBay itself got lucky, due to the Beanie Babies craze, and a part of that sort of thing is artificial scarcity.

    How is he going to make money out of this? I can’t see how he can flip Twitter (he’s not the only investor in the transaction) onto someone else a la eBay, as the world has changed.

    So, he’s got an existing user base, needs to create the float (subscriptions), and a set of transactions on which he can charge fees.

    Twitter is basically reliant upon user generated content – compare it with SubStack. Facebook (aka Meta) dicked around with payments plus crypto a while ago. Died a death, fairly swiftly.

    If a chunk of Twitter’s revenue is investment returns from the float, then those returns won’t be anything special, unless they take on additional risk in the portfolio, and nothing goes wrong. But markets have sold off recently, so it seems likely Twitter will perform better than expected, but that’s basically a mean reversion trade over the next 5 to 7 years or so.

    So social media – network effects, creating very large platforms with millions of users, riven by superstar effects, as very, very small numbers of users have very, very large numbers of followers. Only the superstars get paid real money, in the sort of amounts that matter, using the advertising model. Substack uses a direct subscription model, follower to creator, taking a cut.

    So, take cash externally, use crypto internally, allocating a unit for each like, follow, or share as an internal transaction, take a fee each time. Still got superstars, but what if the internal transaction isn’t based on a linear, fixed ratio, but something else, like quadratic voting?


    Two questions – can Musk make this work? Dunno, but it’s probably worth a punt.

    And, is this what’s he’s doing? One implication here is that Twitter shifts from being a closed platform, common carrier, based on short form content, to an open one, more akin to a publisher, as a generic distribution platform.

  20. Whilst I’m at it…

    From Musk’s position, there’s probably a huge chunk of his most liquid wealth tied up in Tesla stock. Or the current market valuation of Tesla stock. So there’s this;

    There’s a fair amount of risk, company specific, sector, etc etc, right there.

    It does make an awful lot of sense to diversify away from Tesla, into a more generic market one – so, it’s the float again.

    Musk can essentially not disturb the fanbois too much if he disguises the shift in his personal assets by buying Twitter.

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