When I first read of Tesla firing over 700 employees (around 2% of the total workforce), I wanted to write about what I thought of that singular action. However, as I read more about the incident my interest in the firing dropped especially since there’s nothing extremely drastic about that action in isolation. Organizations let go of employees on a regular basis for performance dips. I have nothing against an organization that continuously churns out the bottom x% in an attempt to raise the bar. If you walk into an organization completely aware of the performance standards, work culture and expectations, you should know what to expect. However, when the spotlight shines on an organization, it brings many other aspects into light too. A series of lawsuits that suddenly popped up and then there was this statement by Volkswagen’s CEO Matthias Muller –
Now I really need to say a few words about Tesla: With all respect, there are some world champions of big announcements in this world-I don’t want to name names. There are companies that barely sell 80,000 cars a year. Then there are companies like Volkswagen that sell 11 million cars this year, and produce a profit of 13 or 14 billion euro. If I am correctly informed, Tesla each quarter destroys millions of dollars in the three digits, and it willy-nilly fires its workers. Social responsibility? Please. We should not get carried away and compare apples with oranges.
Now, I’ve been a great admirer of Elon Musk and his ideas. I’ve time and again referred to Tesla and him on this blog and only had good things to say. But even I must admit that when it comes to ‘over promising and under delivering’ Elon Musk does a great job at it. We’ve lived under the illusion that success usually emerges from over delivering and under promising but the rise of Tesla and it’s stock prices show that over promising works. Sometimes you need to give people a dream and hope that the dream will turn to reality. So, is Elon Musk really in the business of selling dreams?
You always have that one person on the team who is great at churning ideas, experiments and awe. Implementation and perseverance isn’t usually their cup of tea. They create an idea, give it the semblance of life, maybe even churn out a couple of 100 prototypes (read cars) and then move on to the next shiny object. Do we need people like these? Of course! Where else would Hyperloop emerge from?
Tesla does pour down a lot of money in re-imagining the future. Will they be the ones to build it? I’m not so sure but they can definitely lead in showing the world the way forward.