Elon Musk asked Twitter engineers to send a weekly update on their progress to him via email.
The email, which leaked, provides concise yet precise details.
It should begin with a subject line with the person’s name, department and date and include their project, their accomplishment, the goal and samples of code.
There was an immediate hue and cry from critics who saw it as micromanaging. They argued that there is no way Musk can read them all.
That criticism misses the point.
Musk seems to understand something Andy Grove popularized in his book High Output Management, that there is tremendous value in writing things down.
The value accrues mainly to the employee, not Musk.
Summarizing accomplishments and connecting them to a specific goal helps focus attention.
Musk communicated this new edict with his trademark capricious and unnecessary sarcasm.
Nevertheless, the idea has merit.
For much of my three-decade career at Bloomberg I wrote a daily note to my manager. It was not imposed on me, it was something I chose to do.
It started out of concern that my boss didn’t know or appreciate everything I did. (Everyone can relate to that anxiety.)
A side benefit was that it served as a basis for one-on-one discussions and also as a way for my manager to redirect me if they thought I was off track.
The real benefit, however, was that it forced me to confront how I was spending my time and ask myself whether I was being productive. It made me think more strategically.
When I managed a team I asked my direct reports to submit items to me to include in the note.
It was an opportunity to promote them and their work. My concern at the time was that my manager didn’t know what was happening down the chain.
Toward the end of my career at Bloomberg, I sent the daily note to a broader group of internal stakeholders. It helped promote the team and create opportunities to collaborate.
Writing a daily or weekly note accounting for your work will also provide you with an incredible record to track and measure your career growth.
In the digital age, the notes have the advantage of being searchable by keyword.
I have stacks of binders with daily notes I printed out twenty years ago. When I read them now I’m reminded of long-forgotten technical and political battles we waged.
Most projects are like most days, they don’t matter. Some do. It’s hard to know at the time. Only looking back can you tell.
In response to news coverage this morning, Musk tweeted something that is as true in business as it is in life: “Perhaps not unreasonable to know if anything was accomplished.”