Is There any Agility in ADDIE?

I’m currently working as a member of the Learning and Development team in a transformational project in a major corporate in Australia.  It is the first time that I have been involved to deliver learning solutions for a business project as my main experience has been with rolling out enterprise wide learning solutions without the rigid control of a group of members in a project team who have a limited view of what constitutes learning.  Being in this project constitutes its own set of challenges, namely the need for innovative learning solutions that are quick and simple to implement vs no budget to do it with.

During my work days, I hear a lot about this being an ‘agile’ project and how learning and development need to be ‘flexible’ in their approaches and possibly even, lower the expectations of what training could be delivered because the deliverable is really, deliver it fast – not necessarily perfect – and only as much that would allow a learner to know and apply in their new role – and at no cost.

To me that presents serious challenges. On the one hand, we look at how we may deploy team leaders to act as coaches and facilitators for their own teams on the floor, but on the other hand, Learning and Development grapple with the perception and the frustration from these people who wonder why we are giving them them more work on top of their normal every-day job.  “If you’re Learning and Development, why aren’t you running courses? Why are you giving us coaching guides so that we run the training! That’s your job isn’t it?”  This is something that we hear everyday.

There’s many factors and dependencies in this project and to teach people across two countries their new roles under the new transformation program is a massive job.  People are scared about their upcoming new roles, uncertain about what training they will need to complete and how all this will be delivered and still run the business.  I share their concerns and so the agile project team has decided that people will only learn as much as they need to know for a point in time to allow the implementation to occur.

What this means is that Learning and Development will be a piecemeal approach over a period of time until such a team the full implementation occurs and people would have received their full training.  The ‘how’ isn’t exactly worked out yet but it is anticipated that the team leaders and subject matter experts will undertake the training while the Learning and Development team create the work instructions of the processes plus also create the relevant learning solution (whether it’s face-to-face, on-the-job coaching guides and checklists, eLearns etc).

In effect, we are building sections of training in the hope that the module will come.

The challenge then is to work closely with the project team to gather content iteratively and create little chunks of learning to be delivered to the learner.  I still haven’t figured out how context will be provided to the learner simply because the solution is so process and task driven that I’m finding it a real challenge to incoporate and meet the expectations of a business that has misconstrued perceptions of learning and development due to previous experiences with them; and also trying to assist the project team to deliver it rapidly and at no cost; and to be fair on the learner who is going through so much change and angst.

We have undertake an ADDIE approach with all our learning solutions and I’m not entirely convinced that for agile projects that require rapid development (and in this project in particularly, where it is chunked down to 3-5 week cycles), that ADDIE adds any value – if anything it is delaying the development time.  My TNA reports are lengthy and I know that the project team aren’t simply interested in these – they care for the output – the deliverables – and really, it doesn’t have to be in any particular format – as long as it is delivered.

So the challenge once again comes down to the fact that Learning and Development is seen as a ‘nice to have’ and not a strategic imperative or linked to the cultural change and communications initiatives that are integral for a project of this size.  Project teams have expectations of Learning and Development and we hold true to adult learning principles and providing the learner with the best experience that they can apply directly into their workplace and role but for some reason the message is getting lost.

It’s an interesting question.  As a learning and development professional, do you jeopardise quality to meet your clients needs for cost reduction and delivery while impacting their learners?  Or, do you stand true to your belief of the value we hold at the risk of being replaced by software programs and tools that can create instant (but dubious quality) training programs that instantly meet the cost and delivery needs of managers.

I know what I would rather do – quality will always ensure longevity in the learning and development business but you need to be flexible and understand the business constraints around time and cost for your solution and work with your clients to come to a mutually agreeable solution.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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