I intend to write a separate post for each of the phases of ADDIE. In each post, I will share some of my best practices as well as my lessons learned. I hope you find this series helpful.
I’m beginning the series with Assessment.
What is Assessment?
This is the first phase in the ADDIE model. The purpose of this phase is to understand the problem that the Business is seeing and how best to address it.
The Business is asking you to solve a performance related problem and they believe that training is the solution. Cool, thanks! There can be other solutions (e.g., compensation, operational, etc.) so please think beyond training; you are more likely to see tangible results if you do.
Questions to start the Assessment
I like to start the Assessment phase with some meetings and interviews. I find this helps me quickly get a grasp on the origins of the request, surrounding history/context, and most importantly an understanding of the targeted group.
Preparing for the meeting
I prepare for the meeting by drafting broad questions that I have about either the request itself or the people that would be completing the training.
I have a few best practices when it comes to hosting my fact finding meeting, they are:
- Face to face is best, but everyone on a conference call works too. A combination of attendance though is always a challenge.
- A clear purpose statement, roles and agenda sent out in advance of the meeting helps everyone stay on track and come prepared.
In general, I prefer to read source materials after my initial meeting. I find that helps me stay clear headed and keeps me listening for the problem, as opposed to piecing a problem together based on source materials and my experience or assumptions.
Below are some of my favourite questions to help you get started.
Tell me about the request
- What is the driving force behind this request?
- How did you identify the problem/gap?
- How will training solve this problem/gap?
Tip: Listen for how they came to understand the problem and that training is the solution
- Has anything like this been done in the past?
- How was it previously trained?
- How was it received?
Tip: If yes, you’ve hit a goldmine of information.
- Compared to the current thing/behaviour that is being replaced/changed, how is this different and how is it the same?
Tip: Look for complexity, current training practices.
- What is the most complicated aspect? Why?
- What is the simplest aspect? Why?
Tip: This will help you prioritize, but please validate this information with the intended audience or Subject Matter Experts.
- How will we know when we are successful?
Tip: Look for behaviours as well as business metrics.
- How does this tie to your business goals?
Tip: If it doesn’t, what would happen if we did nothing?
- How will this training get reinforced?
Tip: Consider how this training will be supported by the audience’s managers.
- How will this training live beyond launch?
Tip: Think about how new employees will receive this knowledge.
Tell me about the people
If you have the time, nothing beats interviews and first hand observations to really understand the audience. That’s not always possible so cross your fingers for very knowledgeable Subject Matter Experts and Business Owners to help you.
When you are asking these questions take a moment to consider who you are asking – the audience’s manager, the Requestor, etc. Try to get as close as you can to the learner to get the clearest and most accurate answers.
Below are some of my favourite questions.
- Describe the audience’s current knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Tip: You are looking for them to speak in generalities, especially if the intended audience is really large. Examples: Most …. A few …
- How are they compensated and/or measured?
Tip: Bonus points if you can tie their compensation/measurement to this training request!
- What is the audience’s general sentiment around this request?
Tip: I believe this can be addressed in training.
- Tell me about this audience’s favourite training.
- Tell me about this audience’s least favourite training.
Tip: Ask about the methodology and topics to get a complete picture about their preferences. You may want materials/links to their favourite training.
- Tell me about your top performer.
- What makes them the top performer?
- How long have they been the top performer?
- How long have they been employed here?
- Tell me about their background.
Tip: Do the same asking about their under performers.
My lesson: Analysis paralysis is real
Assessment is an important phase that helps your learning solution starts off on the right foot. It’s easy to keep digging and learning, because you are curious and onto something. You avoid jumping to conclusions by asking lots of questions which takes time. You might even be inclined to start doing a task or job analysis.
I’ve heard it (and said it).
Just one more interview. Really, just one more. Oh but there’s more of a problem! Look at this!
Stay focused. Remember that purpose statement that you wrote for your first Assessment meeting? Go back to it.
Just start writing and designing. Just starting can help you identify where your knowledge gaps still exist (as opposed to where your curiosity lies). For more information read my ADDIE lessons learned here.
Go back to the original request you received because that’s what the Business is focused on right now. Don’t ignore the secondary problem, but it is just that: secondary.
Remember the adage: A task will fill the time allotted. Is that what’s happening now?
My lesson: Be a performance consultant to become a business partner
You’ve got a great handle on the current situation and the desired state that the Requestor is trying to create with your assistance. You have identified what can be trained and to whom. Way to go!
But but but there’s something else.
The Store Managers aren’t coaching their team.
Be a business partner and let them know. Don’t try to solve the “extras” without talking to them first. You might not even be able to get to the crux of the second problem without talking to them first (Why aren’t the Store Managers coaching the team?).
When presenting your Assessment findings include information to alert the Requestor that you believe there might be a second problem that needs to be solved (Has someone mentioned that the Store Managers aren’t coaching?). Or the problem goes deeper than originally planned (Hey have you heard, the Store Managers aren’t coaching?).
Now that you have clearly articulated the second problem, confirm the prioritization of the primary problem and the new problem you identified. Perhaps through the discussion the Requestor will re-prioritize because you dug to the root cause of the problem. Or maybe a product is launching at the end of the month and that requires your immediate attention, not the fact that the sales team hasn’t been coached in months (Sorry team, no coaching).
When you present your Assessment findings you will include some of your ideas for solving the primary problem. Ask yourself if are there any solutions that address both problems; bonus points if that’s the case! (Coaching guide for the new product launch?) Make it clear how some of your ideas address both of the problems you have identified, then suggest that additional work will really be required for the second problem. In most cases, you can identify the additional work at this point (more Assessment, separate project, etc.).
The bottom line
Be genuinely curious and unafraid to ask questions. Everyone will benefit, including the Business, because the learning solution you design will have tangible results.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources:
From Analysis to Evaluation: Tools, Tips and Techniques for Trainers by Jane Bozarth. Here.
Training and Development for Dummies by Elaine Biech. Here.