Elon Musk’s challenge to management thinking
Elon Musk’s challenge to management thinking
If the billionaire succeeds at Twitter, the MBA will need an update
如果马斯克在推特成功了，那你们的 MBA 就白学了。
November 8, 2022 12:44 AMShare
Elon musk’s takeover of Twitter raises questions of policy: is it right for the world’s richest man to own such an important forum for public debate? It raises issues of law: is his decision to get rid of so many workers within days of completing the acquisition above board? And it raises questions of strategy: can Twitter make money by moving from a business model based on advertising to one based on subscription? But it is also an extremely public test of a particular style of management. In the way he thinks about work, decision-making and the role of the CEO, Mr Musk is swimming against the tide.
马斯克成功收购推特引发了一个政治上的问题，那就是世界首富掌握了如此重要的论坛，对于公众话语权是福是祸？它还触及了法律问题，那就是他在完成收购的几天之内就决定解雇如此大量的员工的行为是否合法？还有一个（公司经营的）战略问题，那就是推特能否将基于广告的商业模式转移到基于订阅上？我们可以将它看作一个针对管理形式的极端的公开测试。（可以说）马斯克在三个方面可以说是逆流而上，分别是工作（方式）、决策（方式）和 CEO 的角色（权限）。
His attitude to employees is an obvious example of his counter-cultural approach. For a futurist, Mr Musk is a very old-fashioned boss. He doesn’t like remote work. Earlier this year he sent an email to employees at Tesla demanding that they come to the office for at least 40 hours a week. Anyone who thought this was antiquated could “pretend to work somewhere else”, he tweeted.
他针对员工的态度是他反传统（工作）方式的明显例子。从一个未来主义者的标准来看，马斯克是一个非常老派的老板。他不喜欢远程办公。今年早些时候，他给特斯拉员工发邮件，要求他们每周至少到岗工作 40 小时。他发推特表示，如果有人认为这个要求过分，那他可以去别的地方摸鱼。
Whatever the legality of his decision to fire so many Twitter workers, his methods are brutal: people locked out of corporate it accounts, careers ended with an impersonal email, half the workforce gone at a stroke. It is as if Thanos had decided to try his hand at business. For those who remain, hard graft is the expectation; insiders say that one of Mr Musk’s first acts at the firm was to cancel monthly firm-wide “days of rest”. The template for the modern manager tends to be a low-ego, compassionate boss who gives people autonomy. Someone didn’t get the memo.
His critics have to accept that the my-way-or-the-highway approach has worked before. At his other firms, like Tesla and SpaceX, Mr Musk may not have offered empathy but he has provided a planet-sized sense of purpose, from popularising electric vehicles to colonising Mars. Whether this can work for him at Twitter is less clear. His vision for the product as a “digital town square” where free speech flourishes is a typically grand one. This time, however, he is not taking on lumbering incumbents, but fixing an existing business where judgment and politics matter as much as engineering.
The way that Mr Musk takes decisions also cuts across consensus. Comparatively little research has been done on how CEOs make their choices, but a Harvard Business School working paper published in 2020 had a bash by asking 262 of the school’s own alumni how they went about making strategy.
马斯克的决策方式也是值得研究的。有些零星研究试图解释 CEO 如何做出决策，但一篇发表于 2020 年的来自哈弗商学院的工作论文，它采访了 262 名校友，询问他们如何做出决策。
The authors of the paper did discover a wide range of approaches, with some managers going on gut instinct and others using very formalised processes. But the researchers found that bosses who use more structured processes tend to lead bigger and faster-growing firms (which way causality runs is not clear). They also tend to make decisions more slowly. Mr Musk and his acolytes are in a different camp: fast, informal and aggressive. Reports are already surfacing of fired Twitter workers being asked to come back.
He is unorthodox in another way, too. Peter Drucker, a doyen among management thinkers, described the CEO as being the person in the organisation who bridges the outside world and the inner workings of the company. No one else in the firm is in a position to combine these perspectives, Mr Drucker wrote.
他（指马斯克）的特立独行也表现在另一个方面。来自管理智库的前辈 Peter Drucker 将 CEO 描述成组织内将公司内部和外部世界联系起来的人。他（指 Peter Drucker）还说，公司内没有第二人将这两个元素集于一身。
Mr Musk is not so much bridging this gap as making the distinction between the inside and outside of the company irrelevant. His personal brand and wealth is inextricably linked with the other firms he runs. At Twitter he is going even further, tossing out product ideas on his own Twitter feed, polling the audience for their views and offering real-time commentary on how things are going. And Twitter itself is a platform on which everyone—users, ex-employees, the people who founded the firm, policymakers and pundits—weighs in publicly to say how things are going. There is not much of an inside to talk of.
而马斯克不仅没有承担这个桥梁作用，更是将内外的跨度扩大化。他个人的品牌和财富价值不可避免地与他运营的其他公司挂钩。（译者，是指特斯拉和 SpaceX 这些公司，它们确实太划时代了）。在推特他甚至更进一步，将产品愿景直接发推，向他的听众收集意见，并直接将产品如何发展实时反馈出去。而推特（本来就）是一个所有人都能对事情发展有话语权的平台，包括用户、前员工、公司股东、政客和专家等。这里并没有内部人士发言的空间。
You might object that Mr Musk is a one-off, and so is this deal. When he first made his offer to buy Twitter, he explicitly said that it was not because of an economic rationale. He later tried to wriggle out of the transaction entirely. The story of a billionaire owner of a social-media platform has little in common with the challenges that preoccupy the salaried executives of most public firms. Maybe so, but if Mr Musk makes another success of his latest venture by being brutal to his workforce, skipping the PowerPoint sessions and managing through memes, the MBA will still need a bit of an update.
你可能会说马斯克是个异类，这次交易也不例外。当他最开始进行收购时，他说这不是出于经济目的。之后他曾努力从收购中完全摆脱出来。这个亿万富翁拥有社交媒体平台的故事不像其他公司里领薪水的执行官那样战战兢兢。事实可能如此，但如果马斯克通过他敢于对人力资源动刀、敢于跳过 PPT 管理环节的行为获得了再一次成功的话，那么 MBA 们的知识可能都白学了。