Smees or SMEs, aka Subject Matter Experts, are formally designated roles in a creative organization that can be established to provide an alternate career path for individuals on your team ill suited to be managers. The team members I’m referring to are the technical, aesthetic and strategic gurus who the lesser experienced staff on your team naturally turn to for help with their functional challenges. They’re the go-to people for those high-profile logistically complex projects that require an extra special touch. They’re your trusted right-hand men or women you want to have by your side in kickoff and other critical milestone meetings with your clients.
Formalizing the position that these valued experts are already filling in your group acknowledges their contributions, establishes an avenue for professional growth in addition to the management track (which SMEs often despise) and lets the entire team know that you value functional as well as managerial expertise. If you don’t create SME roles in your department you risk these valuable individuals either opting to increase their salary and prestige by becoming managers which short circuits their ability to powerfully contribute to the business or leaving your company altogether. The establishment of Subject Matter Experts is your opportunity to design a more powerful creative organization.