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3 Ways to Boost Organizational Speed

The answer? Adopt the key foundational principles around specialization of labor.

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In physics, centripetal force is the law of motion that helps an object safely negotiate a corner.  Railroad engineers and race car drivers live and die by this law, and if they pick up too much speed, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Business has its own laws of motion, and though excessive speed may not lead to loss of life, the consequences can be just as real. Despite this, recent survey results suggest that many companies have thrown caution to the wind in an effort to stay competitive.

Earlier this year, security company Threat Stack released findings that show 52%of companies have cut back on cybersecurity practices in order to meet deadlines or business objectives. And a Nielsen State of Innovation survey found that 84% of fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers are feeling pressure to get to market faster — and most say that’s at the expense of innovation.  According to Jenny Frazier, SVP in Nielsen’s Innovation practice, when speed is a priority, 78% of marketers reduce the time they spend on innovation.

But there’s another way to accelerate the pace of business without sacrificing security, speed, or the sustainability of your company. By adopting several key foundational principles of the specialization of labor, you can increase your company’s performance and minimize the unfortunate side effects.

Focus on your strengths

At its most basic level, specialization of labor has implications on how your employees spend their time at work. Historically, the focus was purely about increasing overall output, but that is starting to change as companies take a more holistic view of success of the individual and the company.  

In “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” author Greg McKeown makes a case for the importance of individuals identifying—and prioritizing—the areas in which they are most passionate and where they can make the biggest business impact. By saying “no” to many of the other responsibilities that compete for their time, they can focus on the areas where they excel.

Indeed, a 2014 study from Deloitte Consulting that found that people who are passionate about their work:

  • Always look for better solutions
  • Take meaningful risks
  • Perform at higher levels
  • Put in the hours to get the job done
  • Are well connected to others in their area of expertise
  • Cut across silos to deliver results

For many decades, companies put structures and processes in place to maximize efficiency and predictability. And as they look for areas to improve business performance, empowering employees to explore their passions will be key to driving long-term improvements. But according to Deloitte, only about 12% of America’s workforce have passion for their job.

Outsource your weaknesses

Broadly speaking, human beings excel when it comes to dealing with nuance, context, and identifying subtle differences. But once we veer into the territory of repetitive and tedious tasks, our performance drops off precipitously. We get distracted, lose interest, and miss the most obvious of details.

And those are the areas where AI and machine learning excel, says, Professor Elizabeth Holm, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. As a computational materials scientist, Holm has discovered firsthand that AI and machine learning are especially helpful where “infinite patience and attention to detail” are useful, such as with increasing the speed and accuracy of data analytics.

“[AI and machine learning] are really good at patiently taking in every data point and doing what you ask them to,” says Holm. “This is the complementarity with humans because we don’t like to do endless, repetitive tasks, and often miss details because we’re bored or otherwise distracted.”

But Holm is quick to add that while AI and machine learning are useful in helping pinpoint items that need attention, the human element is essential to determining the nature of an issue and how to address it.

Reduce your response time

One of the inescapable truisms of virtually any business is that everything takes time, and frequently it takes too much of it. This has helped fuel demand for business process automation (BPA) solutions, which help companies identify (and eliminate) bottlenecks to productivity, streamline the error-free collection of data, and quickly transform it into action for your business.

Cloud-based work-execution solutions such as Smartsheet can be implemented in a fraction of the time of a full-blown BPA solution, enabling simple, user-configured automation that accelerates work. Many of these apps can also automate weekly status reports, saving countless hours spent manually generating these reports.

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