speedThe ADDIE versus SAM debate has been swirling around for several years now in an effort to speed up the instructional design process. I’ve heard people say that ADDIE is too slow, while others claim that SAM is too complicated.

If instructional design is taking too long, I can assure you that it’s not ADDIE’s fault and it’s not SAM’s, either. We turn around training projects in record-breaking time and I never so much as think about either ADDIE or SAM. Really, never.

Here are my secrets to speeding up instructional design.

1) Triage needs assessment. No matter how pressed for time, you can’t skip this step. If you do, you won’t know what you are actually training people to do. Not good.

But, just because you can’t skip the needs assessment doesn’t mean that you have to do a 30-question SurveyMonkey survey to 1,200 employees complete with sophisticated statistical analysis of the results. Usually, talking to the leader or manager who requested the training and a sampling of people who will receive the training is sufficient.

You can see exactly what I ask in my needs assessment triage 3-part series. The whole process should take very little time. I find the biggest time suck is getting on people’s calendars, not the actual needs assessment.

2) Develop content first. Many instructional designers like to develop the content and design the activities in tandem. I think it gets their creative juices flowing. But, it doesn’t make sense to me. How do you know how you will teach something if you don’t know what you are teaching?

This back and forth inevitably happens, even if it is just in the designer’s head. And, it takes time. It’s much faster to develop all the content first and then focus on designing the activities.

3) Keep the activities simple. Corporate training is not edutainment. There I said it. It is helping people to learn something new so they can do their job better. You don’t need complicated activities to do this. You do need activities that give people a chance to practice the thing they will be doing on the job and to receive feedback on their efforts.

Yes, games can be a fun way to drill and practice. I’ve been using games for years. But, if you are pressed for time, use one of the popular game templates to load your content into. Jeopardy has been around for years. And, you know what? It still works.

4) Put the kibosh on word smithing. I have never seen word smithing actually contribute to increased clarity. Rather, it typically reflects the word smither’s personal preference. This opens the door to others to put in their two cents. And, before you know it, people are undoing each other’s work in effort to make sure that the final version reflects their personal preference. This is a huge waste of everyone’s time.

Subject matter experts should be reviewing training content for accuracy and completeness. That’s it. Grammar and style should be off limits. We actually use a professional editor so we can take grammar and style comments off the table.

5) Break the project into mini-projects, each with it’s own schedule and deliverable. I think instructional design projects get bogged down because they feel big and amorphous, and have lots of moving parts. We address this challenge by breaking the project into mini-projects each with it’s own schedule and tangible deliverable. For example, one mini-project might consist of writing the content outline; another might be doing a full content write up; and third might be developing the design document.

The added benefit of this approach is that we get subject matter experts to weigh in on each deliverable. This helps us make sure that we are on track and can course correct before we’ve invested time and energy doing the wrong thing.