Building Bridges

Crisp Air, Mexican Hot Chocolate, and an Adirondack Chair

Leaves are on the verge of turning beautiful colors here in the Northeast. The evening air is crispening, and I can smell logs burning in firepits as my neighbors try to squeeze in some more cool-night outdoor time.

You know what that means…2022 is around the corner, and, for many of us, it is also time to start our strategic planning for next year. (Sorry to pull you away from the comfort of your Adirondack chair and Mexican hot cocoa, but please bear with me for a moment or two.)

You may be experienced in working with your internal clients to identify their business goals for the coming year and determining how you can support those goals. In case it is new to you, here are three phases to help you, an instructional design professional, get there:

1. Assess
Prepare questions for each of your stakeholders, starting with: What are your business goals for next year? What do you believe are your greatest challenges in achieving those goals? Why? What is needed to help remove those challenges? What if the goals are not met?

I recommend following the Performance Consulting model described in Dana Gaines Robinson’s (et. al.) book of the same name. This process will help you identify performance gaps, capability needs, and appropriate solutions. Hint: not all solutions will be training! Sometimes our internal clients don’t realize that, and this book can help you explain.

Another consideration during the Assess phase is the capacity of your internal instructional design group. As you move into Plan/Design, it helps to prioritize needs with your stakeholders.

2. Plan/Design
Once you have a clear understanding of the business goals and employee performance gaps, you can design, at a high level, a learning solution. That might include listing clusters of learning assets such as courses, readings, activities, performance support, or posters, each with related learning objectives and instructions on where and how learners would access them.

Ideally, you’ll be Designing for Modern Learning as Crystal Kadakia and Lisa M.D. Owens describe in their book of the same name. Your internal client would approve of your recommendations and prioritization before you begin development. This book, with a “modernized” five-step learning model, can help as you make your case for what might feel like a different way of designing learning.

As part of your prioritization process, identify to your internal client where you might fall short of capacity (or even capability) to Develop and Launch according to the plans. If the need is a high enough priority, the internal client may need to budget for external support, which could include consultants, technology, or even content expertise.

3. Develop and Launch
Finally, the real fun begins! Now you can develop the learning assets themselves. While this might take most of your time during the year, it cannot be done effectively without well executed Assess and Plan/Design phases.

Hopefully, during those earlier phases of Assess and Plan/Design—the ones you started after a cool evening by your firepit sipping that Mexican hot cocoa—you will define your goals and plans so developing and launching your 2022 learning programs hits the mark with your internal client. We are happy to support you—while sipping our respective Mexican hot cocoas—as you Assess; provide creative ideas and approaches as you Plan/Design, and offer partnership solutions as you prepare to Develop.