Design and Development Projects: An Insider's Perspective

By: Rebecca Doepke, Learning Expert, Mondo Learning Solutions
October 22, 2013

As learning and development professionals, we are often called upon to design, develop, and deliver training programs from scratch. Though the requests come in all shapes and sizes, often from all over the organization, one requirement from our requestors is pretty consistent: "We need this now; how fast can you push this training out to our people?"

Regardless of the request, high quality programs take time. Conducting needs assessment, writing/agreeing on learning objectives, designing and developing content, program logistics and delivery, and evaluating the results are critical steps. However, with our learning and development hat on, we tend to get caught up in our process and the methodology, while the person requesting the training program is thinking, "You are making this too complicated; I really need my people to get this training ASAP!"

Could we be any further apart?

When it comes to design and development, I have found the following approach to be effective at getting a project up and running while educating my internal client about the design process at the same time.

It looks like this.

Kick-off Strategy Session

When it comes to designing and developing a training program, kick off the process with a strategy session. The purpose of this session is to begin with what I consider the assessment and analysis phase. Words like assessment and analysis are typically too heavy for the folks attending the session who are anxious to get the ball rolling. I focus on gathering as much information as possible while making the time spent meaningful and valuable to them.

First, I involve them in the process by asking questions like:

  • What circumstances have led you to request this training?
  • What is the desired outcome of the training? After these employees have completed training __________ will be different. They will now __________.
  • What, specifically, do you want the participants to learn?
  • What are the goals for the participants back on the job as it applies to this training?
  • How will this be supported back on the job?
  • From your perspective, what would you like this training experience to look like? (There's a difference between the training content and the training experience. This question is to get at the type of experience they want for their employee.)
  • What does your timeline look like? What is driving this timeline?

Next, I move into a discussion about roles and responsibilities. Together, we clearly define them and assign them.

Finally, I share a road map of the phases in the design and development process. When my solution includes traditional face to face training, my road map contains the following phases:

Phase One

Using the information from the strategy kick-off session, I begin the design and development process with the first draft of the facilitator guide. In my process, the facilitator guide will drive several pieces: timing of the program, participant materials, exercises, activities, and other support materials. It's obvious to me this piece comes first and lays the foundation for the program, but it's not always obvious to my internal client/requestor. I simply, let them know this is the first piece they will be reviewing. I often refer to draft one of the facilitator guide as the "ugly draft" because it is text heavy, not branded, and it does not look anything like a polished final deliverable. Since the purpose of the facilitator guide is to provide the guidelines and very detailed instructions to the facilitator on how to conduct the program, I find this a logical place to start. Once I have the first draft developed, I pitch it back to the reviewer. I let them know they can take the "red pen" approach to make their changes and add comments. We then have a conversation around their feedback and move into phase two.

Phase Two

Using the feedback for draft one of the facilitator guide, I start work on draft two. Once again I pitch it back to the reviewer, they go through it with their red pen, and we have another (usually brief) feedback conversation.

With this second review completed, I create draft three. At this point the content of the facilitator guide is final; therefore, this draft's purpose is to add in all the imagery and brand elements. This is where the guide "visually" comes to life.

Since the content of my facilitator guide is nailed down, I start to lay out the participant materials. Using the content from draft three of the facilitator guide, I develop draft one of the participant guide. In addition to the participant guide, programs typically include other support pieces that need to be designed and developed such as the PowerPoint slide deck, activities, games, exercises, and other handouts. I work on the support pieces simultaneously with the drafts of the participant guide.

Phase Three

Using the feedback from the branded facilitator guide (draft three), I finalize the facilitator guide.

Next, I follow the same feedback and review process with the participant guide and related support materials as I did with the facilitator guide until I reach that final deliverable form.

Final Phase

At this point I like to hold a wrap-up session. Usually this is a simple phone conversation to serve as another "check-in" and confirm satisfaction with all pieces prior to implementation and delivery.

Designing and developing a training program is not something that can be pulled together in a matter of a few days. However, I have found this phased approach, when swiftly executed by all parties involved, results in delivering solid training programs in a time frame that meets the business need.