Subject Matter Experts: The On-Demand Substitutes for Your Job-Hopping Executives

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Subject Matter Experts: The On-Demand Substitutes for Your Job-Hopping ExecutivesYou invest a fortune and multi-department resources in every one of your chief officers and directors–needing them to deliver a big return–while they are changing jobs every three years in order to quickly build their capabilities and increase their income potential. The spin rate of the revolving door on your c-suite is preventing you from completing essential business process improvements. It’s time to stop that revolution and start a productive one. It’s time to contract in the unsurpassed productivity of subject matter experts (SMEs) who implement on-target operational excellence  and train your team for continuous improvement.

Rethink Your Executive Suite When One Jumps Ship

Chief officers are SMEs. They are on your payroll because they have deep knowledge of and extensive experience in their area of expertise, from accounting to branding, design to engineering, human resources to innovation, operations to quality, and about 50 other areas of specialty. They are multi-taskers who drive each worthwhile project or process to completion. So are SMEs. Next time you feel the rush of air from the c-suite revolving door:

  1. Get the list of that executive’s current and future initiatives,
  2. Identify the core subject matter expertise required to execute each one by priority,
  3. Connect with the agency that specializes in placing SMEs in your specific area of expertise need, and
  4. Get them onboard.

The only two things an SME can’t bring to bear on your executive projects is a history with your company and recognition as a part of it. No matter. The SME knows the business, industry, and task at hand; that’s why they have their designation. Furthermore, the SME is well suited to being the face of projects in lieu of a divisional persona.

What Subject Matter Experts Will Do For You

For every process deployment imaginable, there are SMEs who can execute transformation and train for sustainability. For example, Ron Crabtree , chief transformation architect and founder of MetaOps, Inc., and MetaExperts, is an SME in the umbrella operational excellence areas of:

  • Adaptive Business,
  • Organizational Change Management,
  • Business Process Improvement/Reengineering,
  • Lean and Lean Six Sigma, and
  • Supply Chain Management.

Furthermore, he has extensive expertise in specific industries including:

  • Complex Manufacturing,
  • Food and Beverage Manufacturing,
  • The Insurance Industry, and
  • The Health and Medical Industries.

He is himself, a seasoned c-suite executive, and has implemented transformations for dozens of companies, working shoulder-to-shoulder with chief officers, or in their stead. He and the others like him, who are deployed to clients by his company MetaExperts, use both the time-tested tools of their areas of expertise as well as their deep capabilities to bring client goals to fruition, despite the presence or absence of divisional executives.

As Ron says, “An executive’s primary role in a company is to get the things worth doing done. That’s the core definition of an SME whose only focus is to get it done, get it done extremely well and pass on the knowledge required for sustainable continuous improvement. Organizations simply don’t need full-charge executives in place to achieve most goals.”

How to Get Everything You Need from Your Subject Matter Experts

Peggy Salvatore, MBA  has worked extensively with SMEs in instructional design in the health care industry. She has developed a list of 10 fool-proof ways to ensure that SMEs are set up to succeed on every project:

  1. Set clear objectives and keep them in focus.
  2. Include and get a commitment to milestones and deadlines.
  3. Schedule information gathering time, location and structure.
  4. Have strict agendas for meetings and follow them.
  5. Record information gathering and sessions.
  6. If you aren’t clear about anything the SME says/does, ask questions until you are.
  7. Educate yourself about the project and the SME.
  8. Document the project so it can be explained to others and be iterative.
  9. Put systems in place to prevent rework.
  10. Create an error control system.

What these look like for each project can be readily defined by you in collaboration with the SME. Once you’ve both agreed and signed off the procedural plan, the SME will be ready to begin.

No Chief Officer? No Problem!

As of 2017, “Subject Matter Expert” is one of the top 100 business terms searched on Google. Indications are that the decrease in the baby-boomer workforce and the increase in the Millennial job-hopping culture–which is expected to impact executive loyalty/longevity with companies deeply–are the two primary causes for this trend. Ultimately, you’ll find yourself creating a new c-suite model for your organization. A model that adapts to chief officer position vacancies through procurement of SMEs.

Additional Reading

Understanding the Role and Purpose of the Subject Matter Expert,, F. John Reh, January 14, 2017

Organizational Survival: 10 Tips for Working with Subject Matter Experts ,, Peggy Salvatore, MBA, 2017

Subject Matter Expert: Working Toward Ensuring the Value in a Project Organization, Scott Larmore, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2011


Understanding the Role and Purpose of the Subject Matter Expert,, F. John Reh, January 14, 2017


Additional Reading

Staffing for Operational Excellence

Executives: Get Top Performance from Your Contractors and Remote Teams by Communicating Culture


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