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In this blog post I want to share a piece of text I found in Elon Musk’s biography. How much of it is true, I don’t know, but I like the idea of so I’m sharing it.

“One reason was that rocket components were subject to hundreds of specifications and requirements mandated by the military and NASA. At big aerospace companies, engineers followed these religiously.

Musk did the opposite: he made his engineers question all specifications. This would later become step one in a five-point checklist, dubbed “the algorithm,” that became his oft-repeated mantra when developing products:

  1. Question every requirement. Each should come with the name of the person who made it. You should never accept that a requirement came from a department, such as from “the legal department” or “the safety department.” You need to know the name of the real person who made that requirement. Then you should question it, no matter how smart that person is. Requirements from smart people are the most dangerous, because people are less likely to question them. Always do so, even if the requirement came from me. Then make the requirements less dumb.
  2. Delete any part or process you can. You may have to add them back later. In fact, if you do not end up adding back at least 10% of them, then you didn’t delete enough.
  3. Simplify and optimize. This should come after step two. A common mistake is to simplify and optimize a part or a process that should not exist.
  4. Accelerate cycle time. Every process can be speeded up. But only do this after you have followed the first three steps. In the Tesla factory, I mistakenly spent a lot of time accelerating processes that I later realized should have been deleted.
  5. Automate. That comes last. The big mistake in Nevada and at Fremont was that I began by trying to automate every step. We should have waited until all the requirements had been questioned, parts and processes deleted, and the bugs were shaken out.”