How many of us, the seasoned instructional designers who live, breathe, and die by the ADDIE model, have had a company process, lack of a process, management, a colleague, or simply time, push us to not do our professional best during the analysis phase? And how many of us seasoned IDs have to learn the lesson again and again? If you do not do your due diligence regarding analysis, it always comes back to bite you.

Here are seven “gotchas” that all of us encounter at one time or another, and my suggestions to avoid being bitten.

Gotcha #1: As an ID, you receive your input, a requirements document, to the design phase. You have one week to complete the design document and submit it for review. You read the requirements document three times over, pull the design document template, do some research on the subject matter, and begin writing. You complete the design document, and submit it to your subject matter experts for review. You receive comments back, and their comments imply sweeping, significant changes to the course topic outline. Ouch! What went wrong?

Gotcha Avoidance Technique #1: Analyzing the input to your design not only means analyzing what is written in the input document, but what is not written, and what is not said. If you have a question about the input document, ask the author promptly.

Gotcha #2: There is no communication between the learning consultant who produces the requirements document and the instructional designer who will then use that document as an input to design. There were no phone calls, no meetings, no e-mails, and no instant messages.

Gotcha Avoidance Technique #2: Don’t wait for the learning consultant to call you, call the learning consultant. Be proactive. Offer your help, your services, and your expertise to the situation as soon as you are aware of the project.

Gotcha #3: The project team, learning consultant, and developers have never worked together on a project, do not really know each other’s capabilities, and thus must go through a breaking-in period. Team members thus become overly detailed, and document revisions seemingly go on forever.

Gotcha Avoidance Technique #3: Establish your credibility quickly through talking about your education and experience, strengths and weaknesses, and what you can bring to the project. Encourage other team members to do the same, or simply ask them about their experience and their fortés.

Gotcha #4: There is a history of “throw it over the wall.” This history has engendered a general lack of trust between the groups, who are tossing project work back and forth, or simply dropping the proverbial “it’s-yours-now” bomb.

Gotcha Avoidance Technique #4: Toss it back. Well, OK, simply ask questions that need to be asked. Don’t get caught up in the emotional, political, and cultural negativism. Be objective, and ask the questions you need to get your job done.

Gotcha #5: There is no collective organizational knowledge around the analysis phase of a project, or if there is, it is not known and it is not documented.

Gotcha Avoidance Technique #5: Make first-line management and second-line management aware of the issue for process improvement and process documentation. Offer to work with others to accomplish this.

Gotcha #6: A new process has been initiated that uses the ADDIE model. This process goes across multiple groups with multiple layers of management.

Gotcha Avoidance Technique #6: At every turn, remind everyone that your comments and input are intended to get out the kinks in the process so that it works like a well-oiled machine. Offer your experience in the school of hard knocks as your motivation for your behavior.

Gotcha #7: There is a history of design-by-SME. What a subtle distinction there is between design-by-SME and ID-driven design with your SME’s input. Less experienced IDs have a harder time with this, and certain personality types may as well also. However, as an ID in a learning function in your company, it is your job to drive the design and development of any learning product. What this means in concrete terms is that you produce documents for the SME’s review and input, not vice versa. Also, you know how to recognize the classic design-by-SME phrases such as “in my opinion,” “you should talk about this first, and then this,” or “can you put this slide in?” 

Now, there are other SME phrases that hold more weight and should not be discounted as simply an over-zealous SME. One such phrase is, “This is how we do it in the field.” This is a loaded phrase, and you should examine it.

Gotcha Avoidance Technique #7:  Tell your SME(s) that you begin the design with a task analysis, and the task analysis is documentation of what is done in the field. You weight these tasks by frequency, difficulty, and importance. This weighting technique helps you, as the ID, to determine which tasks to train in the learning product, which tasks to address in a job-aid, or other learning collateral such as a white paper, and which tasks to not train.