The management of experts

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by studiot, Mar 15, 2015.

  1. studiot

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 9, 2007
    Say you are in charge of some operation and you draft in an expert in some activity that you need performed.

    The expert may be highly qualified for example a computer consultant, or she may be highly skilled, say an excavator driver.

    How do you approach the management of those more expert in something (knowledge or skill or both) than yourself?
  2. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
    Is the person an independent contractor or an employee? That is, is the person's work warranted by themselves (or their company), or are you (or your company) carrying that burden? That distinction carries over to other aspects as well. For example, who is responsible for obtaining permits, licenses, inspections, resolving potential violations, compensation for injuries, being sure appropriate taxes are paid, and so forth.

    If the expert is an independent contractor, then what you do in terms of management may be limited by that relationship. One thing you don't want to do is pay the high price for an independent contractor and then destroy that advantage by managing its employees, even if the company only has one employee. It is like contracting something out. You set the specifications or expectations, there's negotiation, a contract and the independent contractor is relatively free to do the job however he or she may want within the terms of the contract.

    As just one concrete example, suppose you hire a large software firm to install an accounting system. The employees of that firm may work shoulder to shoulder with your other employees during installation and validation. Typically, those employees would be required by contract to obey all of the usual workplace rules as apply to other employees. However, if there is problem, you would be required to deal with the contractor, not its employee.

    On the other hand, if the expert is an employee, they become part of your workforce and are managed as any other employee is managed. I have never experienced a situation where the expertise of such an employee relative to my own was an issue in management. There are situations where a employee may think he knows better than the boss and refuses to accept the boss's decision. Those situations often don't end well for the employee. And of course, there are statutory restrictions on who can be an employee and/or independent contractor. For example, physicians and lawyers will always be considered to an extent independent contractors, even when they are salaried.

  3. Papabravo


    Feb 24, 2006
    It is really quite simple. You define the requirements of the task and your expectations. If there is agreement then you have a metric by which you can measure performance. Job completed on time and on budget no problem.

    If on the other hand things do not progress as planned you need to determine the reason why and make a new plan. This is an iterative process which should cause you to learn more about the things in which you are not an expert. A really good contractor will actually give you a heads up when things begin to go awry, but you have to be listening.
  4. studiot

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 9, 2007
    Gosh I did not menan to get quite that heavy
    but none of that is as important as who makes the tea!
    That would be really heavy stuff.

    I was also thinking in more general terms, for instance how to get the best out of an expert at AAC,
    Or, yes how to get the best out of an epxert at work or in lfe in general.
  5. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
    The second part is easier to answer. First, be sure the expert you hire or ask has a good track record. Second, be sure the expert knows what he is being hired or asked to do.

    cmartinez likes this.
  6. JoeJester

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 26, 2005
    The general guidelines mentioned serve well at AAC as the do in real life when you are contracting with an expert.

    Without a clearer picture of what your seeking, the general advise is all that can be provided.

    Volunteer experts can be a tougher topic.
  7. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    Managing experts is not terribly different than managing humans in general, even young humans (your kids). It's all about expectations. Some expectations are implicit (no criminal behavior, maintain professional ethics) but many have to be clearly communicated (ex. I need the drywall completed by St. Patrick's day or I will not pay you in full).

    Communication is where the problems lie and this is made much worse when there is asymmetric information. The expert struggles to understand what you want and you, the non-expert, struggle to find the right words to stipulate what you need. You don't know which tools will be used, what the constraints are (conservation of energy? That's a problem?), or what the lingo of the business is. Sometimes you need the expert input early-on to help you formulate a project, as you would do with an architect building a custom home for you.

    In my experience it's worthwhile to differentiate clearly between the planning and execution phases. Get everyone including upper management and outside experts involved in the planning phase and make it clear that it is just that, a planning phase. Resist the temptation to jump into a single plan too early, even if the boss suggests it. To some degree it's your job to protect you boss from himself and to make him look good in spite of himself. Management might learn something from the expert and have an epiphany which could change the project significantly, up or down. I know, it's rare for management to have a creative spark, but it does happen.

    Once the project goals and scope are more clear, and framed in vocabulary that the experts can deal with, there should be much less risk in turning them loose to execute the plan. Then it's simply about timeline management and meeting deadlines, and not about back and forth technology disputes.
  8. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    Make them a partner, make sure they are challenged with baseline expectations and reward them for improvements (faster response to customer problems, digging a hole faster with their excavator, cutting costs in your operation or what ever.). Sit down with them and really examine their current level of confidence and speed and challenge them to be better than that. Tell the experts your vision of the improved future, make sure they are on board and, hopefully, they will help you find and even better future.

    Most of all, don't let them get board or complacent. They will start criticizing mgmt in front of the rest of your staff, pointing out everything that is wrong with your organization, your management skills, the compensation and bonus program, ...

    They will bring down moral faster than any team of HR specialists can build it.

    Be careful and include them on the management team or decision-making processes if they are really an expert.
  9. tcmtech

    Distinguished Member

    Nov 4, 2013
    Show continual appreciation for their work. Show continual respect for their skills and make sure they are content in where they are at their job relating to what duties they are able and willing to perform for what pay they get.

    Basically don't act like most managers do.