What’s Your Specialty?

We recently celebrated the 27th anniversary of our degree program, Organizational Communication, last September 26-30.

The week-long celebration officially ended with Center Stage, an inter-batch variety show. Although that week was just as toxic (UP’s term for “hectic”) as any other week before, our batch just couldn’t find a common time to prepare for the presentation. But, with a little pressure (and miracle), we were able to come up with something to present. Watch the performance here.

We perfected SWAGGING.

How did that happen? Simple. Divide and Conquer. 

Our batch representative, Mara, called for a batch meeting. Together with Lois and Klaire, they drafted a story plot and script. Mikko took care of the technicals. Glazy created the props. Migs choreographed our famous dance steps: Math Dance and Labadance. The others danced (like me!). The others acted.

With just an overnight planning and a 2-hour practice, we were able to present something that we also enjoyed doing. Each one played a role during the preparation and presentation.  Unexpectedly, we even emerged as CHAMPIONS!

HYPERSPECIALIZATION, WHAT?

Such is an example of what experts call “Hyperspecialization,” or division of labor — 20th century version.

"HYPERSPECIALIZATION, WHAT?"

Thomas Malone and his colleagues at Harvard Business Publishing explained that Hyperspecialization is “breaking work previously done by one person into more-specialized pieces done by several people.”

Check your noses. Is it bleeding yet? In my own understanding, Hyperspecialization is all about enhancing the ability/skill of a person to fulfill a specific job in an organization. As the article said, Hyperspecialization is fast, cheap and under control.

  • Fast, because the person is assigned to do only a single task which he/she is already an expert of. I bet that he/she can accomplish the task even with eyes closed.
  • Cheap, because you can save money, time and effort that are usually wasted in brainstorming and meetings. Plus, you only pay a single person instead of a team! Companies usually hire an expert or free lancer to do specialized jobs.
  • Under control, because one can be assured of the quality of the works to be produced. However, companies should double check the credibility of the expert before deciding to hire him/her in order to be assured of a quality output.

HYPERSPECIALIZATION? WAIT.

Hyperspecialization sounds promising. It seems like hyperspecializing the jobs in our organizations is the key to cope with the challenges of the fast-paced world we are living in. However, there are some issues we need to take a look at closely.

  • Boxed-in. No matter how much you are an expert at something, you’ll eventually get bored doing the same thing over and over again, right? Besides, where does career growth place here?
  • Bigger Picture. After finishing a task, what’s next? Do hyperspecialists have a say on how their work/product will be used? I don’t think so. It is still up to the manager how to fit every piece he/she has collected.

"Pffft. There's always that other side of the coin."

TO HYPERSPECIALIZE OR NOT?

At the end of the day, the key here is to strike a balance between organizational goal and employee welfare. No matter what weighs more, we should be prepared for the consequences our choices will give us.

On the lighter  side though, hyperspecialization asks us one thing: WHAT’S YOUR SPECIALTY?

Use it. Share it.

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4 thoughts on “What’s Your Specialty?

  1. Hyperspecialization is actually an off-shoot of the scientific school of management. Division of labor, routine tasks, workers as merely cogs in the machine…hyperspecialization is just another fancy name for that in the 21st century. Just like the scientific school, we still have one key problem to address, that is, where is the “man” in “workman”? As far as I know, The human resources school of thought is the most accepted in organizations. But I guess it depends on the organization itself. Like you said, a lot of projects seem to succeed better when we divide and conquer, when we hyperspecialize.

    Then again, one could also say that there doesn’t need to be a dichotomy. As contingency theories say, “use whichever whenever and wherever they apply”. I mean, what’s stopping us from being a hyperspecialist and a well rounded employee at the same time? Orcom \m/

  2. I love how you used our batch’s performance during the recent variety show as a reference for hyperspecialization! It was such a tiring and stressful thing to put together. Nonetheless, I am really happy with the outcome. 😀

    I think in organizations nowadays, hyperspecialization is inevitable, especially with the advancements in technology and in communication. Organizations may not even be aware that they are dividing their work into smaller, more specializes parts. Therefore, managers should be able to effectively manage the workers in order for them to produce outstanding results. Likewise, workers should be aware that whatever they do in their tasks affects a larger picture.

    For another perspective on hyperspecialization, you could try reading this:
    http://thatorcomgirl.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/of-lego-bricks-and-hyperspecialization/

    • You really made Hyperspecialization less commplicated Erica! n_n

      I didn’t notice that what we did in the presentation is somewhat related to hyperspecialization of tasks.

      But if we get along we it like what we did in the batch presentation, I’m sure future companies don’t have to worry about it in the future because OrCom people are ready for it. They just have to get us! ;p hehehe.

      • Hahaha! Me too Glazy! We are often unaware that a simple division of labor is already hyperspecialization.

        I think, this is really the way we do things in OrCom: divide & conquer :))

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