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Get a group of instructional designers together and ask them, “What’s the one thing you need to be able to perform better?” The answer likely isn’t technology, more budget, or even more personnel. The most common answer to this question is “more time.” However, time, more so than even budget, is a finite resource. What can be done to ensure work is not only completed to specifications and within budget, but also by deadline?
Set Realistic Expectations
If you look at industry design time ratios (i.e. how much design time for one hour or day of training), few of us would say, “Yup, that’s what we get.” For example, an industry number for face-to-face training is around 45:1, meaning 45 days of design/development time for one day of training. Of course, identifying the historical design time allowed in your organization is the critical piece and it does require the tracking of project work time. Once an expected historical design time ratio is identified, you’ll find it easier to set realistic expectations with stakeholders for the depth and quality of training possible with the timeline given in the training request.
An early, clear definition of the product helps ensure the instructional design time available will meet the identified deliverable. If there isn’t enough time for the project to begin with, there is little time for miscommunication regarding the specifications of the deliverable.
Determine Project Scope
When provided with the available time, and a realistic expectation of the work that can be accomplished in that time, the project scope should be appropriately limited. Also, a project scoped to fit into time constraints has no room for “scope creep” (e.g. widening the content or the methods to be used in the project.
When possible, the considerations mentioned above could be the basis of negotiation for an adjusted time line.
Review Project Priorities
One of the discussions a project manager must have with the sponsor early in the process relates to project priorities. Ask the sponsor, “Which item is most important? Deadline, specifications of the deliverable, or budget?” Keep in mind, when you make changes to one item, you may also affect the other two items. This should be part of the initial conversation as well.
Review Personal Priorities
Instructional designers make moment to moment decisions about how to use their time. Those decisions should be made consistent with the desires of the manager who is responsible for the designer’s productivity. A clear communication of the designer’s project priorities is crucial.
The “E” in the ADDIE model is for “Evaluation.” Evaluating the results of a training project should be a key part of the process of improvement, but also to document the lessons learned throughout the process. Even in a highly constrained project, learning can occur. If training meets a deadline but doesn’t result in a performance improvement for the learners, what’s the point?
Instructional designers often tend to be perfectionists. However, few of us live in a perfect world. Compromises need to be made considering the constraints present in the project. Of course, a major constraint is the available timeline for a project.
Bottom line, we seldom have all the time we would like to deliver a quality product, but we generally have the time we need. How do your experiences compare?