The Predicament of “Go-to” Experts

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The “go-to” experts in an organization are individuals who possess expertise that others seek to get things done. The expertise could be knowledge about a process, familiarity with a client group, or astute problem solving.

The interesting thing about these “go-to” people is their position. They might not be a manager, but a peer who has earned the respect and trust of others through their generous and helpful demeanor. While it is advantageous for the business because these folks are high performers, it could be reliance that culminates deeper issues.

Shrug off learning

When you have a go-to person on a team, it is natural for team members to turn to him whenever they face a challenge.

Barb is the billing clerk for a wholesaler. Over the years, she becomes the “go-to” person for complex billing adjustments. Some of the billing adjustments are convoluted because the billing application doesn’t have the flexibility to handle them eloquently. Team members seek her help when they become stuck. Despite the adhoc coaching Barb provides, the unending requests for assistance led to additional workload for her. Others shrug off learning because Barb is always there to help.

As helpful as Barb would like to be, the situation is unsustainable. Every team member needs to learn how to process billing adjustments properly, including all complex scenarios.

Pseudo safety net

What happens when the “go-to” person is off sick or decides to leave the company? The expertise will leave with that person.

Mike was the “go-to” person for planning all activities related to procurement and inventory allocation for marketing campaigns. Each campaign requires an extensive exercise in forecasting, purchasing and inventory management. Mike is an expert and acts as a mediator when things go awry. When Mike announced his departure without any notice, the teams were left in the lurch. Stockouts and customer complaints ensued.

When things are going well, complacency sets in. The pseudo safety net is a silent ailment waiting to surface.

Inevitable setback

Outstanding performers are always in high demand. It is inevitable that they would move to another position or leave the organization one day.

Though the “go-to” people might not mind the potential repercussions, it is a risk for the business. The wholesaler could have a more productive billing team when everyone is familiar with complex billing adjustments. Stockouts and customer complaints could have been avoided if others were able to fill the voids upon Mike’s departure.


To mitigate the potential havoc associated with loss of the “go-to” experts, businesses need to take note about their valued expertise.

Start with paying attention to the day-to-day work of team members. Repetitive issues that particular individuals are always required to tackle them is a sign that there is a dependency.

The next step is to determine if a solution has been formalized so a consistent approach can be used. By capturing that solution and providing training to others, the knowledge is shared.

In the event that there isn’t a consistent approach, the “go-to” individual really relies on his experience to develop adhoc solutions. The opportunity then is to develop appropriate solutions by identifying the various scenarios. It is essentially establishing a more structured approach that team members could learn.When expert knowledge is shared and transferred, the dependency on the one or two individuals is minimized. Click To Tweet

When expert knowledge is shared and transferred, the dependency on the one or two individuals is minimized. The business is able to improve overall productivity and build a more resilient team.

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