The Best Time To Plan Your Training Project

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. So, it stands to reason that you wouldn’t build a course or learning experience without a plan in place.

Yet so many projects are planned during the kick-off process: what the end product will look like, how much it will cost, when it will be done.

At issue is the struggle many instructional designers have between sticking to the tried-and-true ADDIE model or abandoning it for Agile methodologies.

Can the two live in harmony? Can an L&D team implement a more iterative ADDIE, or perhaps a more design-centered Agile?


Agile processes need a little adaptation to be truly suitable for learning design processes. Get an introduction to Agile Learning in this free eBook:
The Beginner’s Guide to Agile Learning


The need to accommodate change

The world changes a lot faster than it once did. As vague as this sounds, a lot can change from when a training request is made:

  • The number of learners needing the training has increased (or shrunk)
  • The piece of software or process for which the training is being developed is fundamentally different
  • The business partner has moved on (or even left the company)
  • Some of the employees have already trained themselves on their own, using third-party, off-the-shelf courses
  • All of the company-issued PCs, tablets and smartphones received an upgrade, and assessments are no longer compatible

While the Analysis phase of ADDIE is supposed to uncover any suspected issues during the lifecycle of a course build, even the most experienced learning leaders and instructional designers might be blindsided by unexpected changes.

Quality not dependent on academic models

Many L&D teams are hesitant to abandon ADDIE in favor of Agile Learning because they feel that the latter would mean throwing out existing processes completely and starting from scratch.

With that much change, it’s easy to overlook where value is truly being derived from within an Agile process.

“There is a major flaw in all instructional processes,” explains Dr. Richard Sites, an expert in process improvement for instructional design and training and co-author of the Association for Talent Development’s best-selling Leaving ADDIE for SAM and the Leaving ADDIE for SAM Field Guide. “It’s the underlying assumption that a process’s efficiency or effectiveness dictates the quality of the final product. So, rather than focusing on the process, pay attention to the impact of each iteration.

product backlog learning and development

Check out this free ebook for guidance on choosing an Agile Learning framework that works for you and your team:

Demystifying Agile Learning: Find the Right Framework for Your Training Team


Collaboration as the key to success

Collaboration is the key to producing a quality instructional product within time and budget constraints.

This does not simply mean conducting regular team meetings or creating a special Slack or Teams channel. Collaboration in instructional design means allowing team members to evaluate a product at regular steps along the way. This feedback ensures that current issues are addressed immediately and any issues on the horizon are discussed and plans are created to tackle them.

Without collaboration on a learning project, there can be cases of too little, too late: a course is built and shipped to learners with all sort of glaring errors that could be have been corrected much earlier on.

Collaboration brings not only transparency but also engagement, which is critical to keeping team members focused and on track.

Final words

We haven’t answered the question posed earlier: when is the best time to plan your training project?

The answer is: it depends. (Yes, really.)

Spending most of the time upfront, in the Analysis phase, can provide an opportunity to predict any expected snags in the project, or even across the organization. Only after this in-depth analysis can a plan be truly developed.

Will that plan change? It most likely will, but hopefully in small, addressable ways.

While it may not have to be a choice between one and the other, L&D teams that evaluate the learning project at every step of the process will see success—most importantly in the experience of the end-users, namely the learners.

If Agile seems too risky a jump for some organizations, then perhaps a modified ADDIE might do the trick.

Unfortunately, “instructional design is not a linear process,” cautions Andrea Martinez, an independent instructional designer and founder of All Aboard Training. “If you try and keep it linear you will ruin the outcome of your design/development.”

Learning teams need to find what works best for their needs, and make changes accordingly.

In this recorded webinar, Megan Torrance, author of Agile for Instructional Designers, explains how Agile helps L&D teams meet business needs when those needs are rapidly changing.
Harnessing Change: Agile Methods for L&D

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