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Elon Musk: Mad Scientist or Just Mad?

Change management expert Karen Ferris believes Musk’s missteps offer object lessons on what not to do when taking the reins of an organization.

We asked HDI thought leaders the following question: What lessons, if any, can the IT service management community take from the Twitter-Elon Musk meltdown? Putting aside the politics of the tech entrepreneur, this is what they had to say about his management decisions since taking control of the social media platform. Here is what change management expert Karen Ferris had to say.

Many people are posing the same question as the Los Angeles Times Article did this month. “Is Elon Musk A Genius or An Idiot?” 

THINK BEFORE YOU ACT.

Musk has reacted and it has backfired. As the LA Times said, “Another lesson is not to make changes in a company until you understand it. Musk bulldozed Twitter with undiscerning changes in its management, policies and personnel, sowing chaos in ways he plainly didn’t anticipate. After firing half its staff, he discovered that he eviscerated some departments Twitter needs to function; the company has started to invite some fired workers back to work.”

DO NOT DICTATE.

Musk demanded that Twitter employees return to the office on a full-time basis, telling them they would have to be “extremely hardcore” and “work long hours at high intensity” to stay at the company. Employees had to commit or be laid off. Fewer people committed than expected; and less than half of the company’s remaining employees chose to stay on. Ultimatums are something Musk is well-known for – he did the same at Tesla and SpaceX. Whilst there are often hard decisions to be made in organizations, they must be done with humility, integrity, empathy and compassion. These actions cause anxiety, concern, stress, and, ultimately, burnout.

LISTEN.

Employees at Twitter tried to warn Musk about the implications of his actions in regard to the Blue paid verification scheme, but their words fell on deaf ears. Following the emerging chaos, Musk had to halt enrollments in the program. “Offering anyone the chance to slap a “verified” badge on their account had led to widespread impersonation of government officials, corporations, and celebrities. The resulting mayhem, which led to memorable hoaxes from accounts misrepresenting themselves as Eli Lilly, Tesla, Lockheed Martin, and others had triggered an advertiser pullout and a general sense that the platform had descended into chaos.” reported The Verge.

He may have looked like a genius before Twitter – now he just looks like an idiot.

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