Making Good Ideas FIT (Into the Box) 2: Front End Analyses

17 Jun

This is the second in a series on “into the box” thinking – a core competency of resilient instructional designers (ID’s).

Training design is hugely fulfilling but there are some associated challenges that make it tricky. It is a science and an art to synthesize ideas and get them ready to ship on time, at the right price point, to the right learners.  An experienced instructional designer can help you save a ton of time, money, and team morale, as you begin to package your ideas.

WI v1.0Here’s a WILD idea… Don’t skip the front end analysis. An effective front end assessment is critically important if you plan to solve the real problem(s). In my experience, this phase is often skipped or given short shrift.  This is an important time to fully appreciate performance issues and systemic causes. This is also a time to ascertain if the issues can be solved by training (there are often lots of other contributing factors.) The front end analysis means you slow down a bit at first – so you can move more efficiently later. Not only will you diagnose issues more clearly — it’s a great time to build a shared vision with the training team of what success can look like.

A front end assessment answers many questions, including:

—  Who are our learners and how do they prefer to learn? Do we have a class of fact driven concrete, logical thinkers who prefer lectures, charts, lists, and worksheets – or learners who are engaged by dialogue, experiential “open space” learning, hands on practicums, and role plays? Chances are the answer is “both” which means that whatever methods you select need to seamlessly blend together to honor multiple intelligences. 

What do our learners really need to be able to do or to know? What’s driving the bus? In what context do new competencies need to show up? How will the training help save money or hassle, increase productivity, strengthen teams, or help everyone think strategically? How will managers be able to see tangible results? Are teams are more inter-connected, dependable, resilient, collaborative, focused and engaged in the organization’s mission? Was that the goal? Good job! Go celebrate! It’s amazing how rarely trainers do follow up evaluations to gauge long term impact. I guess that’s subject for another blog.

What business systems or contexts reward and or impede performance?  For instance, if we expect customer service reps to focus their time building relationships with callers, but we bonus them only when they increase the number of calls handled per shift, guess which behaviors change?

 How much do they already know? It is amazing how much we have rattling around in our brains that is not “top of mind” all the time. Like most folks, I took biology in high school. I clearly remember the day we had to dissect a frog. Today, I might not remember frog anatomy all that well (amazingly it almost never comes up in conversations) but if you asked me to do it again today I could probably muddle through it because the learning experience was so intense those many years ago. All of us have competencies we don’t know we have until we are challenged to go inside and search for them. Unfortunately some trainers default to an assumption that learners know less than they do. This can come out of a well-intended motivation to share what we know, not an assumption that everyone is incompetent. However that zeal to “tell” can jeopardize training effectiveness if it gets construed as a lack of respect for our existing strengths.

This means that as a key component of a front end analysis, it’s helpful to measure or pre-test your learners’ competencies. There are fast and even fun ways to do this.  Take a poll, distribute a survey, run a focus group, do a pilot test. Ask, ask, ask for input. Ask “What would it take for you to take your work to the next level?” Chances are you will receive honest, practical and truly inspiring responses. The homework pays off. It will prove to your learners and your stakeholders, that the training really  fits into the box – it’s worth the investment.

Coming up… what’s the deal with learning objectives?

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