Join Jolie Miller for an in-depth discussion in this video Motivating and engaging the SME, part of Instructional Design Essentials: Working with SMEs.
- The best instructional designers know how to wear multiple hats, sometimes all in the space of an hour of project work. For example, Shay, my producer for this course, has been equal parts task master, cheer leader, coach, editor, sounding board, project manager, and friend. All to get me to the finish line, so this course releases to you. Motivating and engaging your SMEs is one of the most critical parts of building and maintaining a strong relationship and designing the best instruction for your audience. Here are the three tips I turn to again and again, and when I layer them together, I get a motivated and engaged SME.
First, develop an ability to put yourself in their shoes, or have empathy, and use that to frame your collaboration. Listen, care and problem-solve, and try to understand them rather than commanding them or telling them what to do. The instructional design process isn't a natural one for many SMEs. It's more of an extra task on top of a full-time job, or an exercise that stretches them in an uncomfortable way. Sure, some of them are doing it as part of their job, or getting paid, but even so, take a leadership role in this collaboration, and make it your job to develop empathy as your default.
Even when you might be frustrated, or feel like you're doing all the heavy lifting, if you look at it as your job to make everyone on the project successful, it reframes your efforts in a positive light. And that's the next step, building what I call success spots, where your SME has quick frequent wins that build momentum and interest in continuing strong. Over the years, I've seen many a SME project with big infrequent milestones that drag out over months. The first one is six weeks away, and it really might as well have an "Ignore Me" sign on it because your SME isn't even going to look at that until Week Five, and then it's too late for them to turn the big thing in on time.
Instead, get going with some quick, easy deliverables so you're SME starts and never has to stop saying, "Hey, I'm hitting all my deadlines, "and this isn't as hard as I thought." Finally, make it your job to be transparent and feedback friendly. Notice and appreciate the work your SME is doing, and let them know how it's going. It sounds like a small thing to hear from your instructional designer that they appreciate your work, but I can tell you when I was 18 scripts into this course, hearing that from Shay made my day, and it got me to finish those last scripts on time.
With Jeff and his course, I found that he wanted to know what was and wasn't working, and to learn more about the process to get better in subsequent collaborations, so I made it my job to notice how he was working and what we could improve for his continued education. These three steps can really be summed up with this: Be nice to your SME and make the collaboration, the schedule, and the feedback, opportunities to connect, rather than confront. A little kindness goes a long way.
The course also shows you how to set up project schedules, overcome common obstacles, and use a variety of approaches to ensure that the content you build together will be stronger than the content either of you would build alone. The lessons are framed by a fictional ID/SME relationship that models how the two partners work together to create a customer-service training session.
- What is an SME?
- Understanding how designers and SMEs interact
- Getting to know the SME
- Building a schedule
- Outlining the content
- Managing deliverables
- Retaining the SME's voice
- Incorporating feedback
- Launching the content