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The ISD Process

Most people in the Learning & Development field are familiar with the ADDIE model.  For those of you who are not, this is an acronym for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

In my opinion, a lot of training organizations either skip entirely or do a poor job of three out of these five steps; i.e., they don't do good upfront analysis, they don't do good design before they begin development, and their evaluation metrics leave a lot to be desired.

To me, analysis is the key.  If you have not defined what success looks like, don't expect favorable results with your training intervention.  Training should address performance gaps, or be designed to prevent them from occurring in the first place, such as with new hire training or new product rollout training for sales professionals and support engineers.  For those who are well-versed in the ISD (Instructional Systems Design) process, you should know what a gap analysis is and how to conduct one.  However, most ISD professionals work in organizations where a gap analysis is not performed.  What is a gap analysis?  This is the gap between desired performance and actual performance.  A good gap analysis is the first step in creating terminal performance objectives.

When it comes to design, I am a firm believer in having a detailed design specification that is reviewed and accepted by the stake holders prior to the beginning of development.  A good design specification has to have the following:  terminal performance objectives (what the trainee should be able to do) as well as supporting enabling objectives, both knowledge objectives (what the trainees needs to know) and performance objectives (the steps broken down to accomplish the terminal performance objectives).  I think of a TPO as a task, and the EOs as the knowledge and steps necessary to accomplish the task.

What does a well written objective look like?  All final objectives should have the following components:

    •    a Condition;
    •    the Performance (using a verb with an agreed upon definition)
    •    a Reference; and,
    •    the Criterion.

Here is an example:

Given a car with a flat tire, a spare, jack, and lug wrench (the CONDITION), change the tire (the PERFORMANCE), in accordance with the Owner’s Manual (the REFERENCE), with no errors (the CRITERION).

If the design specification, or design spec for short, lists all enabling objectives in this format, then the development team will be able to develop a training intervention--regardless of delivery method--that will address the performance gap(s) identified in the analysis stage.

The last part of the ADDIE process, which most organizations do a poor job on, is evaluation.  In order to be able to state definitively whether a particular training intervention has had a positive impact on the workforce, you need to look back to the initial gap analysis and measure the effectiveness of those who have been trained in closing the gap(s).  "Smile sheets" handed out at the end of instructor-led training don't do this, yet this is what most organizations use as their "evaluation."

Good ISD is a process that requires discipline.  When undisciplined "professionals" skip steps, jump right into development, and don't do any real evaluation, it's little wonder that their training is ineffective.  I will repeat myself, "If you have not defined what success looks like, don't expect favorable results with your training intervention." 

If there is a problem that needs to be fixed and you think training is the solution, then have the discipline to analyze the problem, spec out what success looks like (put the effort into preparing a comprehensive design spec) before beginning your development.  And last, but certainly not least, measure the performance in the field of those who have attended the training to see if what they learned has had a positive impact on their ability to do the job.  It it doesn't, go back and adjust your design spec, redevelop the training, implement, and reevaluate.  Remember, ADDIE is an iterative process.

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