Mastering the Art of SME Management

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

As you know, building strong subject matter expert (SME) relationships during the training development process doesn't just happen like magic. It requires impeccable communication, cooperation, careful planning, flexibility and stamina, just to name a few skills.

As a representative of the training team, you are responsible for exhibiting these skills and for helping other members of the team develop them too.

You are also responsible for bridging the gap between the experts (the SMEs) and the novices (the learners). Think of yourself as the learners' advocate: your job is to determine the information they need to be successful. Then you need to find that information and put it all together in a way that they can understand and remember. The primary way to do this is by working closely with the experts.

Your Goals

When developing training, you should always have well defined goals. But what are your goals when working with SMEs? One of your primary objectives is to build an alliance with your SMEs and the teams they represent in your organization. This alliance is not a one-way street where the SMEs feed you everything you need. You can help them, too, by respecting them, appreciating their efforts and by collaborating with them every step of the way. This alliance can save you time, effort and a lot of headaches as you work on future projects. Success is the ultimate goal of both your training efforts and your SME relationships, but who should experience this success?

  • The learners experience success if they can apply their new knowledge effectively on the job.

  • The SMEs experience success if they achieve their personal and professional goals for the project. These goals may include recognition by peers or superiors, reduced workload or improved efficiency. It's your job to discover each SME's goals and work toward meeting them.

  • The company experiences success if their business objectives are met through the training and if their employees work efficiently and effectively together toward meeting those objectives.

  • And, of course, you experience personal and professional success when everyone else meets their goals with your help and you create a premium training product!

Now, let's take a deep dive into the skilled art of SME management - from critical preparation steps in the training project, to making meetings work, to the types of questions you ask SMEs, to guiding them through the review process.

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