Managing successful learning development with SMEs

Managing successful learning development with SMEs

June 19, 2024

In the previous posts, we’ve talked about the SME-ID relationship and the risks of SME-led development (with some mitigations). Enough doom and gloom! Let’s talk about how to manage a successful engagement with SMEs.

Whether your experts are developing content or are consulting in the process, here are three guidelines to keep in mind.

1. Don’t put it all on the SME

A good ID is a force multiplier who can manage expectations, expedite the process, and farm work out to specialized producers (such as video, podcast, and simulations). Your ID should act as a guide and concierge to the SME. At a minimum, an ID should guide the SME their first time through the process.

2. Consider a project manager

A good project manager is a force multiplier. They can manage stakeholder expectations, clear obstacles out of the way, and help when the SME is diverted into other work. They can also handle the logistics of testing, deployment, LMS/LRS management, and marketing.

3. Develop and reward your SMEs

Treat the SME’s knowledge as a performance improvement in itself:

  • You may need to train the SME in some ID processes (e.g. skills decomposition),
  • Share design artifacts between SME engagements to help today’s SME learn from past projects,
  • Supplement this with job aids — help through the process, help with the authoring tool, and plenty of examples to reference; and
  • Be available as a consultant on short notice to fit into the times when the SME isn’t on other work. There’s nothing more frustrating than being stalled on a problem, especially when performing an unfamiliar task.
  • Consider developing a rewards program for SMEs who design/develop/deliver content. This goes a long way to mitigating burnout and building a pool of willing help. Make sure these rewards are tangible and visible so others see them and consider helping you.

4. Build support up the management chain

These projects can place a substantial demand on experts and the work often stretches well beyond initial projections. (This is doubly true for AI projects, where the SME is often learning to prompt effectively.) Keep a line of discussion open with their managers to ensure they’re not feeling pressure from both sides.

Next time

So far, we’ve focused on the hidden costs and project management aspects. Next, we’ll pivot to the results on your learners and how to ensure quality. See you then.