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, Elon Musk of Tesla wrote.
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. 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.
H/T Justin Bariso. As Bariso writes "It's extremely difficult to cultivate in the real world." There is a further problem of communication content and communication delivery. I've certainly made mistakes in communication delivery. It take much longer to craft 200 words to express a complex matter then it does to say it 800 words. The 200 words will be better expressed and more succinct; but well written takes longer.
"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." which is attributed to many different writers.
This difficulty in free expression is one of the reasons why psychological safety as researched by Amy Edmondson and Google Research is so important.
Few people like being told they are not doing their job well. Nevertheless, we should judge if constructive criticism is coming from a place of malicious intent, or positive intent. If positive, then it needs to be taken in the spirit it is given and we can all improve. I believe much internal commentary is with constructive intent - when that is believed, a team gains psychological safety.
If you'd like to feel inspired by other addresses and life lessons try: Ursula K Le Guin on literature as an operating manual for life; Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Or Charlie Munger on always inverting.