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When SME’s Make You Cry

subject matter experts

Embarking on a new project is always exciting. The kickoff meeting with a new client brings a sense of new challenges and opportunities to flex creative muscles. And as such, I recently joined a kick-off meeting for a new project with a project sponsor and SME I hadn’t met prior to said kickoff.

We asked the typical questions that drive the team to the objectives of the course, discussed scope, various other logistics, and finally we asked about timelines. As our project sponsor and SME worked to address that question, our SME finally said:

“Ideally it would be on this date, but I am much more interested in getting this course right than tying us to a date. We want quality, not just something we are getting out the door to meet a deadline”

Cue the water works. Verklempt is a more accurate word for what our team felt. A SME that finally understood that this whole course development gig is about quality courses that are engaging and lead to change. While not imperative to the success of a project, this level of support and grasp on the purpose of learning in development, gives a course the opportunity to shine.

Why do these two sentences give L&D professionals such liberation that it would bring us to tears? It isn’t because we require slow and overly methodical work. In my mind, it is because we see that our team has faith in the process we have built to deliver you the best course possible.  We know that SME’s are often the gatekeeper to our course’s information. SMEs give us a shortcut to the information we are seeking.

We can’t always expect our SMEs to make us cry from joy for “getting it”, but we can learn from the ones who do. From the beginning of the project, working to help your project team understand the need for engaging and useful courses should be one goal of all kickoff meetings. The team then has the opportunity to work towards the same goal, no matter what it may be.

What is your experience with SMEs? Have you ever had a perfect SME experience? Let’s talk about itin the comments below.

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