One of the most valuable services that a change management and training firm can provide is the staffing of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), or domain experts. Not only do SMEs provide our clients with their special knowledge and skills in the client’s target area of change, but they are very often also skilled content writers and facilitators who can work with client teams and help lead an organization through a significant change initiative.
At Maher & Maher, our clients regularly turn to our firm to engage SMEs in their target areas of expertise because we are recognized for the broad and deep national and international network of thought leaders and expert practitioners we work with regularly, whom we can immediately bring to the table as SMEs. We have established this network over two decades of experience in workforce development, economic development, education, e-learning technology development, community planning, and private sector projects at the national, state, regional, and local levels. Our extensive work at the front lines of transformative efforts in these various areas gives us access not only to the “right” organizations and individuals that can offer subject matter expertise, but also, most important, to specific, recognized opinion leaders that bring tremendous knowledge and powerful ideas to system and organizational change ventures.
For example, in 2007-2008, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Training Administration (ETA) relied upon Maher & Maher to identify and engage SMEs for their Transformational Forums. Leveraging our existing network of thought leader-partners, we were able to map connections among organizations and individuals, identify opportunities for the engagement of additional experts and thought leaders for ETA’s training design, and harness our partnerships and relationships to quickly and seamlessly engage these individuals in both virtual and on-site transformational efforts. We recruited SMEs from across the country and from a variety of sectors, including the state and local workforce system; private workforce and economic development consulting; business and industry leadership communities; economic and workforce information analysis; community development; and service delivery assessment and re-design. Once we identified and engaged these SMEs, the Maher team oversaw the process for orienting and preparing the SMEs for their roles during the Forums, which included topical knowledge-sharing sessions with groups of Forum attendees, as well as individualized coaching and technical assistance with state teams during action-planning sessions.
The Forums model for pairing the SMEs that Maher & Maher identified with participating state teams was enormously successful, and teams’ feedback on the SMEs’ coaching and technical assistance support was overwhelmingly positive. As a result of this innovative SME coaching approach, the 60 Forums teams developed and implemented strategic change action plans, re-designing front-line business and service delivery processes to advance their strategic vision, and executing leadership evaluation and development plans to enhance effectiveness.