The Learning Circuits Big Question is how do we address the "I want it now" demand from stakeholders. Of course stakeholders come to training departments all the time demanding training and we need to look at the problem first as Jay Cross was quick to point out. So, assuming a training need actually does exist, how do we approach the I want it now demands?
It is important to note that I am writing from the perspective of an e-learning designer in a corporate training department. This is important because we typically have numerous advantages in dealing with stakeholders that consultants do not always have:
- Corporate training departments have a greater ability of push-back on projects. For the most part our stakeholders are internal customers and we do not have the same risks of losing contracts when we push-back.
- We have had the time to "condition" the stakeholders over time to bring us to the table as early as possible. We have also educated them on the design and development process, and the time required, within the organization.
- We more likely have the experience of working with the stakeholder, audience, SMEs, the organization's LMS, specific applications or technology, etc. so we can hit the ground running.
Now with all that out of the way, if the stakeholder has the "I want it now" attitude here are some tips to delivering a course sooner than later (never with out risk to the quality of the training):
- Shorten the process - Here is an outline of the e-Learning Process from Inception to Evaluation, which I used for a team presentation back in 2005. If you follow the ADDIE model it is still pertinent and as you can see there are corners to be cut that will shorten the timeline required. I make it a point to inform stakeholders of the process involved, provide a timeline and project management form that helps give them an idea of when deliverables occur and what their roles and responsibilities are in the process. Note: My first cuts in the timeline are to their deliverables. Plenty of time can be shaved off by reducing their review time alone. I still expect thorough reviews, but to be done in only several days not weeks. Other shortcuts may include the needs analysis, which may have to be very informal, less investment in testing, etc. Remember, risks come with these shortcuts.
- Reduce the amount of interactivity and/or media use. Usually audio is off the table first, which I always add last anyway and do not see it as adding much instructional value to most courses anyway. It is as we say "a nice to do."
And if they still insist with "I want it now" here are some more things that can be done even if reluctantly.
- Up front "just in time" training materials (e.g., job aids, guides, manuals) until you can provide a course. FYI: There are occasions where these actually may be more effective than a course, but that is usually identified during the design phase.
- Captivate demos, Screenr videos, podcasts, webinars, and/or other quick to develop online materials. Note: Although they may be quick to develop, invest as much time into design as you are afforded even if a minimal amount.
- Learning labs - not necessarily a classroom training, but as a facilitator (maybe bring in the SMEs too) have an informal introduction to the subject, or if it is systems training provide a chance to use the system and experiment with what it will/can do.
- Provide a course that has EVEN less interactive elements, media use, fewer graphics with revisions and more instructionally sound content to be added at later time. However, be very careful not to make this the norm and get stuck in the "rapid e-learning" rut of producing dreck and calling it training.
- Be sure to provide an addendum to any course design plan that outlines what will be done within the limited timeline requested and the consequences of cutting corners. This does not solve the problem, but reiterates the need for a more effective development timeline and approach. A bit of C.Y.A. too.
It is important to note that if you do manage to develop something in a unreasonably short period of time, but sacrifice quality it will have negative consequences to learning in your organization and to your department's reputation.
There will be no shortage of stakeholders demanding training on very short notice. It is something we need to reduce by managing expectations and being brought to the table as early as possible. If you do need to make big compromises, remember those same stakeholders that say they want it now may also be quick to come back at you with something like, "Your training was ineffective. What happened?"
Oh, the priest, rabbi and instructional designer identified a training need, collaborated on designing an effective learning program which was not implemented until it was damn well ready to be implemented.