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Experiences of Subject Matter Experts to facilitate learning


We are looking to make more use of Subject Matter Experts across our business to support and facilitate learning. I've read through lots of the theories and expert opinions but would love to hear about any experiences / challenges / unforeseen successes etc. other members might have had in this area.
Matt Swoffer

7 Responses

  1. They work …

    They work really well, provided they have the training and supporting infrastructure to help them to work.

    At Matrix FortyTwo, we have helped 3 major companies in the past year to set up a system of SMEs to ELFs (Excellent Learning Facilitators). Two have been very successful and one has lost its way a bit, in spite of its early success.

    This is because of the lack of management after the initial set up.

    If you would like to chat through what we did and how we did it, I would be happy to share our experiences. Give me a call on 01759 304321 or email me at [email protected].

    Good luck with it.

  2. Subject Matter Experts
    Hello Matt,

    A few years ago I was working on a project coaching subject matter experts so that they could impart their wisdom to their colleagues. I come from a computer techy background as did they, and this was a very hard project to manage. Forgive me if this is something of an IT generalisation, but most top programmers are not natural communicators. In fact, a lot of them sit there with their headsets on listening to music and scowl when anybody has the timerity to disturb them. They love their work and they are totally dedicated, but they often pretty temperamental.

    Their mindset is very different from that of a coach or trainer and they require regular reminding of their new (and unwanted) duties.

    I’d be happy to talk to you about this. You can call me on 07731-876304 next week.

    Regards Vince

  3. Choose wisely
    As the previous commenter has said, SMEs from some fields may not be natural communicators. I would say that you need to select people who are approachable and communicative with reasonable proficiency rather than going for the highest degree of proficiency and risk having a bunch of users who are too scared to approach them. I also find that SMEs make better coaches than trainers, and facilitation is seldom within their skillset. I therefore tend to use them in a JIT, ask-the-expert capacity, rather than have them running formal sessions. When I have used them in formal sessions in the past, I have facilitated the session myself and had them on hand to deliver short, sharp insets, so that they can focus on the bit that they’re good at – namely the content – while leaving all the group dynamic, learning expertise stuff to me.

  4. Thanks
    Thanks all for your comments – really useful stuff, much appreciated. I may well take you up on your offers of discussing this further and will definitely let you know how it goes.

  5. SMEs as Trainers
    I co-deliver most of my longer courses with an SME – it adds pragmatic experience to concepts.

    I select who I want to use, based on their people skills as much as technical expertise and most are excellent.

    Occassionally you need to remind the less experienced to remember they are Managers and not Participants.

  6. Leadership Programme Cascade.
    Hi Matt!

    I’m Training & Development Manager in an organisation with around 400 employees.

    We are successfully cascading an Executive Leadership Behavioural programme to lower-level leaders using previous internal participants (SME’s) as coaches. Essentially putting ‘Leader as Coach’ into practice. We needed to clear the way re IP (Intellectual Property) and I co-facilitate each workshop.

    It’s havinmg a profound effect.

    Happy to talk if this fits with what you’re looking for.

    Wayne Moore
    TrustPower Limited, New Zealand
    [email protected]


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