Agility through collaboration

Instead of factory-style production teams, agile programming uses far fewer, but better, programmers. The principles of communicating, focusing on simplicity, releasing often and testing often are also applicable to developing good instructional programs. Does instructional systems design (ISD) need more agility? An ISD project team should be able to return to the Analysis or Design phase and make changes while instructional content Development is taking place. If not, changing conditions cannot be accommodated and the programme is outdated before it’s even finished. I wonder how many content development shops actually have a process that enables them to rebuild after the design specification has been signed off.

The root of the problem is that ISD views instruction as separate from work. Instruction is perceived as something that can be designed, developed and delivered as a programme, not integrated with the work to be done. Subject matter experts are consulted, but the ISD professionals remain in control. It’s a good model when things change slowly. The current fascination with rapid e-learning only exacerbates the problems with ISD. Rapid is just a faster version of ADDIE, with less time for reflection and feedback: Garbage-In; Garbage-Out.

I think that ISD and agility are fundamentally incompatible. Clark Quinn proposes a better approach, collaborative co-design:

Things are moving so fast, and increasingly the work will be solving new problems, designing new solutions/products/services, etc, that we won’t be able to anticipate the actual work needs.  What we will need to do, instead, is ensure that a full suite of tools are available, and provide individuals with the ability to work together to create worthwhile working/learning environments.

In short, tying back to my post on collaboratively designing job aids, I think we need to be collaboratively designing workflows. What I mean is that the learning function role will move to facilitating individuals tailoring content and tools to achieve their learning goals.

Collaborative co-design is one more way to integrate work and learning, and give our organizations more agility. Embedding the principles of communicating, focusing on simplicity, releasing and testing often; just make sense in an increasingly complex workplace. Once again, the major barrier, like Enterprise 2.0 or social media for work, is that the traditional gatekeepers have to give up control.

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