Elon Musk, best known as the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has a very interesting document on his company’s blog — the second half of his “Master Plan”. He’s achieved or is close to achieving the goals he laid out in the first half of his Master Plan, and he’s now working on the rest.
Musk’s Master Plan is short, very well written, and easy to understand. He explains his overall goals (nothing less than helping to ensure humanity survives and thrives) and shows how each piece of his various efforts (electric cars, vacuum tube transportation systems, solar power, colonizing Mars) serves the overall goal. He also clearly outlines why he’s made decisions that might seem counter-intuitive, like allowing other car companies to use Tesla patents.
A Master Plan is a fantastic tool for organizing effort and thoughts, even if your goals aren’t quite as lofty.
What makes a good Master Plan?
A really, really big goal, with logical, concrete sub-goals.
Musk literally wants to save the human species. That’s a pretty huge goal, but then he slices it into a series of sub-goals until the slices are achievable. Colonizing Mars is a huge goal on its own, and it sounds a little kooky at first, but being able to live on other planets is an important element of ensuring that humans survive the next few thousand years.
In English, please
No market-speak, no meaningless lofty “vision” or “mission” gobbledygook, nothing you can put on a coffee cup. Just clear, simple direct language from a real person, not a committee.
Elon Musk didn’t start out as a billionaire or even a millionaire. At every stage of his career, he has risked his own career and capital to reach the next stage. And he didn’t become a billionaire just so he could buy gold-plated toilets — he needed to control huge amounts of capital so he could start an electric car company, a solar power company, a rocket company, etc. Each of these has to pay off in technology and money in order to power the next stage.
It’s deeply personal
You can tell Musk’s goals mean everything to him. Revealing this much of your yourself and your inner thought is very risky and difficult. And in fact, everything Elon Musk has achieved and plans to achieve has attracted huge amounts of criticism. His plans have also resonated well enough to attract a huge amount of excitement and support.
Why you should care
Since none of us are actually superheros, we need other people to get Big Things done. A good Master Plan includes plenty of reasons why everyone should care about these goals and get on board, or at least get out of the way.
It faces the weaknesses, challenges, and risks
Go ahead and address the criticisms and challenges. Admit what you still need to figure out. Confront what you’re risking, and make sure the overall goal is still worth it.
It’s revisited and revised often
A good Master Plan doesn’t just sit on a shelf or a dusty corner of a blog somewhere. It’s a living document that gets updated as often as needed — as new discoveries and challenges arise, as sub-goals are achieved, as new goals and sub-goals become clear.