While Musk is deconstructing Twitter, SpaceX is living its best life
When the cat is gone, the mice dance, as the saying goes; apparently, the same goes for aerospace titanium.
The acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk caused a real earthquake in the digital world. From this acquisition, the billionaire launched a huge project with the aim of profoundly changing the network and leading the charge on the front line (see our article). Meanwhile, the other businesses he runs operate in relative autonomy. It’s not unheard of under the leadership of this curious and omnipresent leader… and on the SpaceX side, some employees are asking for more.
As a reminder, Musk occupies an unusual position at this level of the industry. In addition to the social network, he is also the CEO of two industrial titans that dominate their respective niches: Tesla for electric vehicles, and SpaceX for aerospace.
Inevitably, this is a particularly heavy triple hat to wear, even for a lunatic in this category. Running such a business is a full-time job that requires a lot of capital. However, the blue bird seems to occupy most of its time for several months.
Overall, this is not a very good situation for a company of this size, where the slightest lack of leadership – even temporarily – can have significant consequences. Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA, also expressed his concern. he asked Gwyneth Shotwell, president and number two of the company, if this change of priority does not interfere with the joint plans of the two institutions (see this Insider article). He was reassuring; and in hindsight, it looks like he was right. From SpaceX’s side, the opposite seems to be happening. And if Bloomberg is to be believed, it’s no coincidence.
Sometimes complex management methods
In fact, many employees of Musk’s companies have already spoken about his somewhat unusual methods. He is a boss ultra-invested, for better and for worse. SpaceX owes much of its success to its penchant for radical innovation, this is indisputable; but this permanent pressure on all fronts also has adverse effects.
It’s common knowledge that he imposes overly ambitious – even if downright unreasonable – goals, direction changes and deadlines on his teams. Moreover, he is known to have an opinion on everything and casually interferes in the work of his teams, and not necessarily in a very relevant way.
An example: on Joe Rogan’s podcast, he confirmed that he asked the engineers to make the Starship sharper. A less efficient form chosen… in reference to a famous scene from The Dictator, Sacha Baron Cohen’s irreverent comedy!
Elon Musk literally made the starship more pointy because of the movie “The Dictator” ?@elonmusk pic.twitter.com/OuLwaRUpqw
— DogeDesigner (@cb_doge) July 15, 2022
Bloomberg cited another specific case story provided by an employee on condition of anonymity. On Friday night, Musk reportedly called the entire team working on Crew Dragon (a capsule designed to carry astronauts into orbit) to come together for an emergency meeting on Saturday morning.
But when they got there, there was no sign of the CEO. When he finally arrives after a major delay, he tells the team that delaying the next vehicle launch will not be accepted, and that everyone must work twice as hard… before leaving as fast as his arrival . According to Bloomberg, this short interview will offend some employees, who want to focus on the security aspect.
Gwyneth Shotwell, the rock of SpaceX
However, in Musk’s new digital crusade, Shotwell is in charge of the day-to-day life of the company. And since then, this sometimes nauseating dynamic seems to have evolved. He is widely regarded as a reliable and pragmatic leader. And most of all, works with more common methods than the big boss of the company. Nothing to do with Musk, who sometimes struggles to delegate. There is no way for him to exceed his prerogatives by inviting himself to a production line that requests arbitrary changes at the last minute, as the CEO often does.
Moreover, he does not share his taste for media escapades; it exhibits an impeccable service record and has never found itself at the center of the slightest controversy. Professionalism is highly valued by employees, who are not always comfortable with the image conveyed by the chief troublemaker.
SpaceX: employees denounce the “disgraceful” behavior of Elon Musk
According to Bloomberg, it is therefore a real breath of fresh air. Obviously, these are mostly isolated testimonies that are not not necessarily representative of the point of view of the entire company. However, if we are to rely on this feedback and the previous admissions of some employees, the work environment seems to be healthier currently has a world leader in aerospace.
New year, new Elon Musk?
But knowing Musk, this bracket may be short-lived. The billionaire is currently looking for someone “crazy enough” to replace him as CEO of Twitter. He revealed this after a survey on the platform (see our article). Once he finds someone to take up the mantle, he’ll safely focus on SpaceX.
This is more likely because in 2023, the company has a very busy schedule that includes some of the deadlines that Musk himself is most looking forward to. We can mention the baptism into orbit of the Starship, the revolutionary vehicle that aims to change this entire industry profoundly. In addition, SpaceX will further increase the speed of its operations. Musk hopes to pass the mark of 100 Falcon 9 launches by 2023, obliterating a four-decade Soviet record in the process. The company must also move forward with development of the HLS, the engine that will allow Artemis III astronauts to land on the Moon within a few years. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With such an important deadline, it would be very surprising if the sulfur leader was not everywhere. In absolute terms, this is not bad news; he may have his faults, Musk remains a key driver who has played a key role in SpaceX’s massive success. And even if they sometimes suffer from this enormous pressure, it seems that way most of the employees didn’t want to see him go.
I just hope he can water down his wine. Perhaps this episode will encourage him to rely more on the excellent people he knows how to surround himself with. In particular, Shotwell has proven himself perfectly capable of leading the company’s operational leadership. Hopefully, Musk will learn lessons that will benefit employee welfare without jeopardizing SpaceX’s success.