Re: Trouble working with a SME

Subject: Re: Trouble working with a SME
From: Mary Anthony <mary -at- PERSISTENCE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1996 10:54:28 -0800

At 09:37 AM 10/31/96 -0800, you wrote:

>The crux of the matter is that he likes to review the documentation (okay
>so far); make copious suggestions on technical matters, organization,
>word choice, writing style (sometimes annoying but still okay),

The SME's actions are based on his understanding of your relationship to him
in the process. Your feelings/response to his actions are based on your
understanding. It sounds like you and the SME have different views on what
each other's role is in the team.

You may want to go to him and say something like, I would like to hear your
view of our relationship and explain my view of our relationship. Listen to
what he says without interrupting. Then, repeat back what you think he said
-- be sure to use objective language. Then, ask him to listen to your view
and respond in the same way.

After going through this method, you are both clear on your expectations.
If there are differences, admit to them and write them down. Then, suggest
you both go away and think about them. Set up a meeting for the next day to
discuss possible solutions. If the differences are severe and it looks like
you can resolve them, you should both agree on a method for arriving at a
solution. Maybe his and your manager resolve them. Then, abide by the
solution. Even if it doesn't go your way.

In the past, I've found this method of discussion usually ends up with a
solution similar to:

SME's have the last word on whether something is technically correct.
Writers have the last word on whether something is presented correctly.

Presentation includes organization, word choice, and writing style.

>and receive an explanation for each suggestion that we do not implement

If reviewers ask for an explanation about why something wasn't implemented,
it seems courteous to offer one. The best medium for this is face to face
simply because you both have the full range of communication techniques
available. EMAIL is just to limited.

I think, since this guy seems to be new to your process, you might need to
work a bit to gain his trust. This is SOP with humans in every situation.
Another poster suggested bringing up awards won and such. Justifying a
position by citing this award or that research can work. It also can look
like you are trying to bolster (or bluster through) a weak position. Try
just calmly going and explaining why you didn't implement something.
Remember, people tend to doubt arguments that appear to be based on emotion.
So, eliminate emotional words or tones from your explanation.

Good Luck,


"What I read, I forget; what I see, I remember; what I do, I learn."
- Unknown Dressage Master
Mary Anthony mary -at- persistence -dot- com

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