Quick Studies

Why Tesla Is a Model of Long-Term Strategic Planning

A great strategy doesn’t have to feel like playing three-dimensional chess. Identify one or two critical issues in a situation, concentrate action and resources on them, and set clear metrics to make sure you’re moving towards your end goal.

Every company claims to have a long-term strategic plan, but few actually deliver on it. With the announcement of Tesla’s new Model 3 sedan, Tesla is well on its way to fulfilling the long-term strategy originally laid out 10 years ago by founder Elon Musk on Tesla’s blog:

  1. Build sports car
  2. Use that money to build an affordable car
  3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car
  4. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
  5. Don’t tell anyone.

You’ll see a similar approach with Musk’s master plan for SpaceX.

Tesla Long Term Strategy

This illustrates just how important it is to have a simple but clear long-term strategy, and how short-term accomplishments play a role in the big picture. Your company may not be trying to get to Mars, but it can adapt some of the same principles:

  1. Find the original problem. Boil things down to its most fundamental truth, and reason up from there. What problem is the customer facing? How can your team address it in a unique way? It may take several revisions and extensive customer research to identify this, so don’t get discouraged if it’s not clear from the beginning.
  2. Translate the problem into short-term goals. Determine how to break down the problem step-by-step, and assign clear metrics to each. For SpaceX, for instance, one clear goal that marks the end of Phase 2 is being able to sell a ticket to Mars for $500,000.
  3. Organize the team around the goals. Now that you know where you’re going and how to get there, assess the organization and look for gaps in resources. Address these as needed, but beware of unintended consequences.
  4. Check-in quarterly. Set up regular check-ins to review goals and metrics, and adjust as needed. While Musk is “fairly confident” Tesla can deliver its Model 3 in 2017, the company delivered the Model X a year late.

Image courtesy of waitbutwhy

Published April 18, 2016

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