Good conversation about specialization with a co-worker today. Previously they worked closely with someone who left the company and we are trying to figure out how to backfill with the workload we have. It basically comes down to having redundancy or specialization.
The discussion stuck with me through the day and got me thinking about how we have done things in other aspects of our business.
Specialization allows someone to go very deep in one assignment or focus. They can get very good at doing those things and we receive efficency gains because of that focus. They get these gains by being able to ignore other aspects of the work on the team.
So what happens if they are gone for a day, or week, or for some reason can’t ever come back to work (you know, “hit by a bus”)?
By banking on efficency we’ve left ourselves open to risk. I believe however, that if done properly this can be covered without too much loss in efficiency, but it does have to be planned for. What we can do is cross-train just enough. The person can know generally what the other person does, how to log in to the necessary programs, perform the more frequent basic troubleshooting, etc. Then we make sure all the other processes are documented well enough for someone with limited knowledge to be able to do the task.
An added benefit to documenting everything is that if this person ever leaves the company their job is already documented for the next person.