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From the day Musk took over, it seemed Twitter was a house on fire. Although Musk was always a controversial figure, the Twitter take-over cost Musk his allures of being a Tony Stark-like superhero who could do no wrong. Why? Three things stood out through their absence: Vision, Respect, and Confidence.
Vision: If there was a vision for the new Twitter, it wasn’t apparent. Tesla wants to catalyze a transformation to sustainable energy. SpaceX wants to make humanity multi-planetary. What was Musk’s vision for Twitter? If he had one, he did not bother to update the web page.
Respect: Why do engineers like to work at Tesla or SpaceX? They respect engineers. Even though the work is very demanding and people will probably burn-out after a few years, you can do really great things!
I don’t think the issue was firing half the staff. You can make a good argument that at a typical large company, 50 to 60% of the staff are not in the value zone. When the company is unprofitable, the money question kicks in, and companies shrink to survive. People outside the value zone are logical candidates for layoffs.
For the people involved, there is no good way to do it, so getting it over with quickly is usually a good thing.
There is moving fast and there is capriciousness. It looks like Musk is more in the capricious zone. The layoffs came extremely quickly, affected many of the wrong people, and did not end. The company by last reports is now down to just 20% of its pre-takeover staffing levels. People are likely more worried about their jobs than the company vision.
Ongoing capriciousness is toxic. According to press reports, Musk would fire the bringers of bad news. Truth was not valued, learning was not valued, and staff were not respected. This makes learning impossible.
Confidence. It looks like Musk bid for Twitter in moment of frustration and hubris, then was maneuvered into buying it. He invested his “life savings” while the company was “in the fast lane to bankruptcy.” I think that made him afraid, in way that he wasn’t with SpaceX or Tesla. Fear plus a lack of vision add up to many questionable decisions.
What next? Twitter now has a new CEO. I hope they turn it around. I like learning the about the latest happenings in the world as they happen. I would like it better if I could do that without being subjugated to tweets from right-wing la-la land.
Start with the Fear thing. Accept that today is a good day to die and move on to focus on the real task at hand.
Next: The Vision thing. What is the compelling vision of the future that twitter will catalyze?
Finally: Psychological safety. It’s got to be more about making the vision a reality than about making Musk comfortable.
What’s your take on the Twitter situation? Share your thoughts in the comments of my LinkedIn post!