Fixing The Problem: A Series
One of many…or maybe just this one. I’m lazy.
If you follow me on Twitter, (and I don’t really recommend it), I have a lot of opinions about the current human issues in Tech. None of them are nice, because the situation is not nice, and quite frankly, most of tech doesn’t want to solve them. What tech wants are billion-dollar payouts for bullshit like this shit:
Seriously. That’s the grand plans of tech nowadays. “Reinventing”, by which I mean “Rebranding”, by which I mean “slapping a new name on old shit” hotels, minibars, buses, and indoor tents. That’s right, it’s no longer a blanket fort, it’s a Pause Pod. Tech has become a mutant Ouroborous that tried to evolve into a Klein bottle and failed.
But that’s leadership in tech right now. Even St. Elon isn’t any better. Proof: https://arstechnica.com/cars/2017/10/tesla-fires-hundreds-of-workers/
I’ve got 260 problems, but excessive production ain’t one…
Now, let us look at this rationally. According to the article in Ars, and its source, these weren’t layoffs due to problems caused by a company with 450,000 Model 3 orders (all with $1K deposits, so yeah, $450M in advance money) who has been able to, in its first quarter manufacture the bigly sum of…260.
That sounds worse than it is, because they’d expected to produce around…1500 in that same period. Wait, no, that is worse. If this were Tesla’s first car, sure, we could understand that. But it’s not. It’s the fourth major model Tesla has made. The Roadster, the Model S, the Model X and the 3.
And it’s not like the Model 3 is some tech demo. It’s the same tech in the other two models. Yet, Tesla, again, cannot, can. not. get it’s production shit together. As a comparison, reasonable estimates have Chevy cranking out new Bolts at a rate of between 9 & 30 *per hour*. So that’s between 216 and 720 every day. In a week, Chevy is outproducing Tesla Model 3’s entire quarter. If you compare the numbers to Tesla overall, Chevy may be outproducing Tesla in its entirety per quarter with just one model of car.
Tesla has a severe production problem.
So back to the layoffs…I’m sorry, they weren’t that. Nope, nope, they were all fired at the same time for poor performance.
The company said this week’s dismissals were the result of a company-wide annual review, and insisted they were not layoffs. Some workers received promotions and bonuses, and the company expects to hire for the “vast majority” of new vacancies, a spokesman said.
“As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures,” a spokesman said. “Tesla is continuing to grow and hire new employees around the world.”
So in other words, (if we average the numbers out), 550 people from sales and administration were all suddenly revealed to be such poor performers, they had to be fired all at once. Just after the announcement that the Model 3 has in no way, shape or form met even its pathetically low production goal.
Seriously? That’s the reason that Tesla’s going to use? That they think is a good one?
Okay, but it’s not going to make them look good.
OMG, Leadership is like…Hard
So let’s take that claim at face value. That all of a sudden, 400–700 employees turned out to be so incompetent that they had to be fired, and that all this incompetency was centered in two areas (the two that are easiest to cut as a cost-cutting measure, which this was not, it was because of reviews) and that somehow, no one at Tesla was able to do anything about this until the reviews all happened. At the same time. Taking that at face value leads me to ask:
What kind of chuckleheads are running things at Tesla?
Because that is just remarkably stupid on every level. Now, it’s not unimaginably stupid, because this is Tech, and we all know that Tech constantly, relentlessly confuses leadership and charisma. Probably why they all love Ayn Rand so much. But it is stupid.
First, letting someone be incompetent for a year, and doing nothing about it until their review is stupid, and that first bit is a requirement for this excuse to work. Having the only feedback for a worker’s performance in terms of stay/go be one review a year is awful. It shows a complete lack of basic leadership principles, such as performance feedback, which should be nigh constant from the supervisor to the worker and back. If someone is having so many problems that they have to be fired after their review, it is not conceivable that any form of supervisor or manager with any form of leadership skills or training did not notice or attempt to help fix any of them during the year.
But this is tech, so putting someone without any form of leadership skills or training in charge of people is pretty common. Stupid, but totally believeable. (Tesla, by the way, is firmly a tech company that happens to do manufacturing. But they’re tech all the way. ) Waiting until a performance review to can someone not only screws the person getting fired because they’re getting fired, but it screws them because they have no chance to fix it. They may not even know, really, what they’re doing wrong. But by god, they’re getting canned for it.
No, I do not believe that all 400–700 people were all on PIP plans at the same time. A few? Sure, like 10–20. A larger number spread across all divisions of the company? I’d even buy that. But from two divisions? 400–700 people?
The spokesman said most of the dismissals were administrative and sales positions, and outside of manufacturing. Tesla employs about 10,000 workers at its Fremont factory.
Come on, that doesn’t add up to anything close to normal. But this is tech, so while it’s barely believable that a company would have such broken leadership across the board, it’s tech. Literally, there is no level, scale, or type of leadership breakdown that’s unbelievable. Even if it means that somehow, just under 1% of Tesla employees were that incompetent for that long.
If anyone should be fired for allowing that many people to do their jobs incorrectly for that long, it should start high up in the management chain and work down. Because if these people were that incompetent, then their managers are doubly so for not fixing the problem sooner.
This, by the way, is what happens when you don’t take leadership seriously. When you confuse enthusiasm with physics, (a problem at Tesla for years now) and are repeatedly “surprised” by production problems. (Is anyone surprised by yet another Tesla production problem? I mean really surprised?)
The other option is that they weren’t really “incompetent”, but rather that Elon has bought into that Jack Welch Stack Ranking Bullshit and feels he has to can a certain percentage of his employees every year so that “only the best” remain. Because that worked so well for teamwork at Microsoft and literally every other company that bought into that nonsensical “Hell in the Cell” as a way to run a workplace crap. Again, it’s tech, so it’s completely possible. It’s not like Tech is capable of learning anything outside of what’s the hot new JS Framework. Today. “Memento” should not be a foundational principle for any industry.
But I think we start to see the problem. When it comes to leadership, there is literally no level of gross incompetence, no failure too large to be unbelievable. You simply cannot have any level of “Okay, now you’re just messing with me” moment when it comes to leadership failures in tech. Because every time you think “This has to be from The Onion”, it turns out to be totally true.
If I do another one of these things, it’ll be about fixing Tech’s inverted-asshole strange hiring issues and how to go about fixing them. (TL;DR — it is actually that easy.)