Elon Musk’s words of wisdom on alignment


Dharmesh Shaw is a founder of HubSpot and he relates what he considers a life-changing encounter with Elon Musk in an article in Inc. by Jessica Stillman.

Shaw managed to ask Musk a question at a small dinner they were both attending. He asked Musk’s advice on growing and scaling a business. Here’s Musk’s answer:

 Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.

As you may recall from high school algebra, a vector is a measurement with that captures two variables: magnitude and direction.  For example, measuring a car in motion, one variable is speed and the other is direction.

So everyone in a company is a vector with both magnitude of impact (how much they achieve, like lines of code they write or sales they close) and a direction of that impact (what feature they are working on or what vertical they are selling into).

The problem is most leaders focus on only one of the two elements of a vector: magnitude and tend to ignore direction. So if you have some people on your team running hard in the wrong direction when you sum the vectors of everyone on the team those running hard in the wrong direction cancel out out those going in the right direction.

So how do you ensure that your entire company is aligned? According to Shah:

  1. Align people with the organization’s goals.

  2. Align individual teams (product, marketing, sales, service, etc.) with the organization’s goals.

  3. Align the organization’s goals with the needs of the customer.

However, I’d start with point zero, alignment amongst the founders, without that points one through three can not be attained.

You can learn more from watching Dharmesh Shaw’s 46 minute talk: Aligning Vectors, What Elon Musk Taught me about growth, embedded in the Inc. article.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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