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