How do you value and leverage deep Subject Matter Expertise ? e.g. retailers building or re-designing an online commerce site rely on web designers’ advice because only they know what works (e.g. what software to use, what ASP services, what usability, how to back it up, privacy standards across different countries, etc). What about challenges that are more complex, more ambiguous? Like Change Management. How do you evaluate and leverage this?
Let’s start by agreeing that there is a difference in Change Management done well and done poorly (usually by rote). How would a Leader assess this specialization? (BTW an uncensored relationship between the Sponsor and the Change Management Subject Matter Expert (CM SME) is critical – any CM SME who doesn’t require it will not push hard enough to optimize results.)
Are you open to considering different interpretations or approaches? Do you follow your Subject Matter Expert’s (SME’s) advice? When? Only when we convince you? How can we earn your trust, your consideration?
What speaks to credibility? How does a CM SME earn trust? Here are a few standards, a few observations and a few challenges:
- Credentials (careful tho, book learning is not field performance – important in combination only)
- Track record (careful tho – “Mileage may vary”, “past performance is not an indication of future returns” – I hate these warnings because they sound like the set up for an excuse and yet I know that they are valid considerations). Talk about the forks in the road, different decisions and different results
- What’s the most important qualification? JUDGEMENT! The ability to read people and situations, to apply knowledge and generate solid insights. This takes great judgement – it is the capability that towers over and above all of the others. Look for breadth of experience (not depth in your industry – you already have that), at consilience of disciplines (the rare combinations of business acumen, focus on results and insight). How do you test for it? Give a scenario and ask how the SME might approach it.
- Courage / integrity – will they tell you what you don’t want to hear? Can they get through to you (and your people) in ways that you are open to considering? Professional, informed, clear, concise, etc.
- Does it “make sense” based on what you already know about your situation? Are you convinced by reason and logic? How much convincing does it take (time and energy)? Once you are convinced who convinces the others who must play? How committed are you (as in ‘eggs’ or ‘bacon’?)
- What if you think you know as much as your SME? What if you don’t actually? (Consider: few leaders actually study CM beyond their MBA – hint a business book here or there, even Kotter (touch in cheek) does not count. And that’s appropriate just as it is with Finance, HR and Marketing)
- Some organizational culture types are a natural fit for introducing change while other cultures are like concrete – are you prepared to consider this? Will your SME take you there even if you are reluctant? Will you do all of what is required? Is some of the CM success dependent on your choices?