Elon Musk says you need to consider five rules in a particular order if you're doing anything important. Here are the five rules.
1: Make Your Requirements Less Dumb
Think through what you're asking people to do and ask yourself, does that make sense? Is it too much? Is it excessively complicated? Is there any way to make it clearer or right?
2: Try and delete parts of the process.
Let's say you have 28 steps in a recipe, and you think, wow, this is just going to take forever. Could you delete five or six of those? Will the final dish be just as delicious at the end? If so then those five steps don't need to be there. Remove them permanently.
Of course, if you take the salt out and then at the end, it tastes terrible and flat then you've broken the outcome. So you simplified something and it didn't work. That is okay! Put the salt back.
Musk says that if you are not deleting at least 10% of the process repeatedly and frequently, then you're probably not deleting enough.
3: Simplify or Optimize
Once you've done the first two things you can simplify or optimize the process. Can you combine two parts of the process? Will something work better done in parallel? Is there a bottleneck causing problems?
These are a few examples you could think of but there are many more.
4: Accelerate cycle time
Now that you've gotten to this point, you can try to do whatever you do. But, do it faster.
Do what you've optimized. Do what you've reduced the complexity on. Do what you've made the requirements on last time. Now you can accelerate cycle time. This is running the race faster but you won't fall on your face most of the time.
If you try to go faster before you do the other things, you are quite likely to smash right into the wall. Then, you get a bloody nose. That's never fun.
Do things right and then you can go faster. It's kind of magical. Unless you skip steps. Don't skip steps.
It's just one word. Automate. Everyone wants this and everyone wants to start on step five. But, it's a mistake to do any of these processes out of order. Doing these steps out of order guarantees you more pain and less gain. Sometimes you might get lucky but probably not. You will also end up automating things that don't even need to exist.
Musk admits there have been times when he's made these mistakes and gone out of order.
If you made it all the way through the steps then you will start to find new opportunities to improve that were not even visible before. From the outside, it starts to look like magic because those looking on can hardly even understand why you're able to go so fast and do so much.
To them, it looks easy but it is anything but. There are no shortcuts. It's just hard and smart work.
I don't know if Musk has a name for these five rules. But, they've already made a difference to the people I have shared them with and to me. I created a Youtube video summarizing these rules that you can watch as well.
This article was inspired by the interview of Elon Musk by Everyday Astronaut on Youtube. Go watch the original three-part series! It's great and this only scratches the surface.
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