I’m not assuming that all instructional design teams need transforming, but I have worked with many teams over the years that have made a conscious decision to change. The best way to determine if your team needs to make changes is to conduct your own gap analysis.

Gap analysis

First, create a vision of what you want your results to look like. Now, take an objective look at your current results and accomplishments. To complete your gap analysis, look at the performance that is yielding your current results and try to identify what kind of performance will be required to attain the results described in your vision. This way you can define your business gap and your performance gap.

We see a variety of performance gaps described by our clients. Some have issues with scope creep that require project rework and extended schedules. Some are concerned that training doesn’t really improve performance to levels required by employees’ jobs and want to move away from a content approach to more of a task-based approach. Others have issues with skills measurement with regard to reliability and validity of testing instruments. Many are concerned about doing too much training at too high a cost.

New practices step-by-step

Here are three steps to help you adopt new practices for your team:

  • The first step is the easiest – skill development. Improving task analysis skills is one of the first ways to close many of the gaps listed above. Writing performance objectives that describe more measureable outcomes is another tactic that will close gaps. Learning to select appropriate testing instruments and writing better tests will also improve results. You usually need to follow skill-development classes with some coaching and mentoring on the job, but improving skills is not difficult or time-consuming.
  • The most important and difficult part of creating change lies in an instructional design team’s leadership. The leader must be able to articulate a vision that will ultimately yield better business results for the organization as a whole. The leader will have to seek to inspire champions in the client base and within the team. And most important, the leader will have to exemplify the change he or she wishes to make in the team.
  • A critical aspect of transformation will be to align team members’ expectations and contributions. A common goal of many transformations is to develop some consistency of best practices for designing instruction. It might be faster and easier to give the team a proven methodology and ask them to use it, but this rarely works. It is more time-consuming, but far better, to let the team develop the best practices they will use and hold them accountable for using and improving them. After all, the people who are going to have to use the process day in and day out are the best ones to develop and improve the process. Ownership is a key to success, and the team will really enjoy the process of creation.

Now that your team has improved their skills, you have committed leadership, and all team members are aligned around a process that everyone believes in, it’s time to approach your clients.

What works with clients

In my experience, it’s best not to talk too much about the work you have done with your team. Some clients may be interested, but most of them care more about their own results than the work you and your team have done. So give them results. If you are using a good instructional design methodology, you will be able to accurately measure learner success with skills that really apply to the job, especially if you have done a good task analysis and written performance objectives to match. Involve your clients in formative evaluation so they can see first-hand how learners are responding to the learning design. The more you can get your client involved in your process, the better ally they will become.

You'll like the outcome!

I had one client who for years talked to me about the difficulty they had working with their subject matter experts, as we all do from time to time. They tried meetings, improved scheduling, and many other tactics to improve this relationship with little success. But once they engaged the SMEs in helping them create a real task analysis, the SMEs found value in investing their time helping the learning team. This went a long way towards proving the value of instructional design practices in their organization.