SMEs or MPs – Subject Matter Experts or Master Performers?


Who do you really want to interview/observe for your Instructional Analysis efforts?

SMEs vs MPs

Someone who understands/knows the “subject matter” – or – a “performance master” – ???

Someone who knows stuff – or someone who can do stuff?

As always – it depends.

Buzz Thoughts...a

What are your goals in Instruction/ Training/ Learning/ Knowledge Management/ EPSS/ Mobile Learning, etc., etc.?

At whatever cost/investment your Enterprise incurs?

Is it to provide subject matter – or performance guidance or instruction? For people to know stuff or be able to do stuff?

I know, I know. As a colleague back in the early 1990s once quoted another colleague, “It’s not just semantics, it’s always semantics.” So true.

As Always - It Depends -- Buzz T-Shirt Logo 003b

But I had been saddled with SMEs back in my early years in the biz, 1979-1982 – when I decided that a corporate SME often took me down the wrong path (not intentionally of course) so many times. Their knowledge was always out-of-date. By days, months or years. They didn’t understand the nuances OF TODAY. And I’d too often find that out in my Pilot-Session. Which of course – is WAY TOO LATE!!!

I started asking for Master Performers who were doing the job at a level of mastery the day before they worked with me.

That phrase doesn’t need any explanation with my clients – only rationale as to why they should want to “cough one up” (a distasteful phrase itself that may not translate appropriately – sorry).

Why? Give me a Master performers and I’ll give you a top tier product. Give me a second tier player and I’ll give you something less than ideal. Give me someone you can afford to have gone for a day or three – and I’ll give you a POS. (A technical term). R for the I.

Sorry. That’s just the way it works. GIGO. Garbage IN – Garbage Out. Good-stuff In – Good-stuff Out. A law of nature. ROI.

Give me the best performer – actually a bunch of them, for me to facilitate in a benchmarking exercise if you will – that produces a behavioral analysis and a cognitive analysis – for instructional means – and/or other means of the processes – the applications. For as the research shows- an SME/MP will miss 70-80% of what a novice really needs to perform – so you have to be very careful about just talking to one or a few. That can be dangerous. And you can’t observe a 6 month to 3 year process to nail that down before developing instruction and information to enable it. That’s just too long. Poor ROI.

Beware the SME Interview. Even the observation – for YOU the observer can only observe behavior – not cognition. And when you ask – they’ll miss that 70-80%. Poor Return on that Investment.

But if you bring a group of them together and successfully facilitate/manipulate them – for the good of them and the Enterprise – they self-correct each other all day long – or three days long in the case of my “standard meeting length” for getting an entire job/performance analysis and enabling K/S analysis task completed. And it is very synergistic. And hard work. With much ROI potential.

For more on this – see my many writings on analysis for instruction (PACT) and performance improvement (EPPI) – and my free book (PDF): lean-ISD – about the 3 levels of ISD and a common performance analysis and project planning/management approaches – at

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Email me with any questions:

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