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Is ADDIE dead?

Is the instructional system design (ISD) model too slow to meet today’s business challenges? Is ADDIE Dead?  Is there a better way to design performance interventions?

These are some of the questions that we occasionally wrestle with at TiER1.  There is a healthy amount of research on this topic (a quick list of resources is listed at the bottom of the blog).  But these are not merely academic debates.  We are attempting to find better and faster ways to help our customers improve performance within their organizations.

I summarize the two sides of the debate in the first of four installments on the blog.

The defenders of the analysis, design, development, instruction and evaluation (ADDIE) model lay out some of the following arguments:

The systems approach to instructional systems design (ISD) has a long history of success and continues to be the best and most easily understood of any model that has been developed to enable effective instruction. 

The ADDIE model in particular has come under a lot of scrutiny from practitioners and some scholars. Typically, those who are most negative about it provide little in the way of information or data to back up their claims or they point to some large failure that has been well publicized.  This is an unfair and biased way of looking at ISD in general and the ADDIE model in particular.

If you look at the historical foundations of ISD it is a field that has always drawn from multiple disciplines, has been difficult to define and has never produced a unified theory of how to produce instruction. In fact, the ADDIE model itself is something that has grown organically within both the academy and amongst practitioners…there is no one ADDIE model that is the standard.

The model grew out of the military, in other words the original model was highly prescriptive and perhaps overly bureaucratic to begin with. The Interservice Procedures for IDS (IPISD) was adopted by the military as a way to standardize instruction across the branches of the military. That said, the field has developed a variety of instructional theories and perspectives that amount to a working theory. 

Eclectic theory and practice is what underpins much of ISD: “Reasoned and validated theoretical eclectism has been a key strength of our field because no single theoretical base provides complete prescriptive principles for the entire design process” (Smith & Ragan, 1993).

Analysis, design, development, instruction and evaluation (ADDIE) are the standard of instructional design; however, there is a fundamental charge against ADDIE in general: it is too slow and clumsy (is because ADDIE is being misused or used in an unimaginative manner. 

The defenders of ADDIE would say that by its very nature the ISD process is flexible. There are circular models that have evaluation at the center of the process, other models are profoundly simple or are organized around central themes for metaphors.  At the end of the day the usability of any given model depends on clarity and completeness.  The VALUE of the model depends on the suitability to your given situation.

No model has emerged that is as easily grasped and executed by the novice to intermediate practitioner than the systematic models of ISD as represented by ADDIE.  Who could argue that instructional program development should NOT follow the Analyze, Design, Develop and Evaluate sequence?

Today’s training challenges are no different than yesterday’s – at least not in any truly meaningful way. Do organizations want better results that are also faster to implement…of course.  But we do not have to throw away a proven and successful model because of the failure of a few to properly grasp and implement the model.

The skeptics of the analysis, design, development, instruction and evaluation (ADDIE) model lay out some of the following arguments about its ability to deliver timely and/or quality results:

ADDIE is being used in an overly linear fashion that slows down the process: it essentially follows a sequential waterfall model.  Each step in the ADDIE model has to be completed before the next step can begin.  It shares an orientation to overall project management methodology as embodied in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) that is the bible of Project Management International or PMI.  This is a deeply flawed model for the development of instruction.

Using this process forces a linear progression: the outputs of the first step become the input of the second step.  If an initial needs analysis takes one month longer than was scheduled, then the design process is on hold until the analysis is complete.  Likewise, if the design step requires many modifications, the development step is further delayed.  This contributes to the slowness of the traditional ADDIE model.

Waterfall methodology gathers all the requirements, then creates the design, then develops the course, then tests the course etc.  Between each of these steps or phases are a series of review meetings.  Stakeholders are invited to these meetings to review progress and provide input on whatever is being developed…basically asking the customer the fundamental question: is this what you really want? 

Pity the customer who says no because what we are really saying is you better say yes or it is going to be very difficult and expensive for you to change your mind!  We have to get out of this mindset and start developing the capability to develop smaller more complete slices of instruction that can be rapidly prototyped, changed on the fly and built in much smaller iterations or chunks.

We need to look to other disciplines such as software development, lean manufacturing and quality assurance protocols to drive efficiency AND instructional integrity.  There is no reason why we can’t have both.

These models are what that some rebel practitioners who get it done day in and day out in field, are starting to work with.  They have no choice or they will find themselves out of a job. Businesses, and increasingly schools, are results driven and not process driven.  We need to start thinking backwards from the result and then determining what other strategies will best fit to get the job done.

Basically, the key culprit in the whole issue is that the analysis step has become overly complex and time consuming.  By the time the audience and task analysis is complete the product or course has become redundant.  This is incredibly frustrating and costly for clients and customers.  Business opportunities have come and gone while we are still in our lockstep analysis phase.

So the question begs how are people using the model improperly?

Users of the model can make the mistake that every step and every sub-stage of the process must be carried out regardless of the situation. Some have compared it building the Brooklyn Bridge over a creek in Oklahoma.   It was never meant to be the one-size fits all model – but from a lack of knowing how to approach instructional design, people have reverted to ADDIE as the one means of completing the task of instructional design.

Next blog: There’s no “there” there. Does ADDIE have any theory behind it?

Continue Reading »

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Who We’re Looking For
You have strong business process analysis, design and documentation skills and thrive under pressure, stepping in and ramping up quickly on projects. With SharePoint as your platform, you determine project requirements and collaborate with project managers and stakeholders to determine what architecture and workflows are best suited. And you’ve managed delivery initiatives around implementation of SharePoint solutions, creating communication plans and end-user training materials

TiER1 is looking for an energetic, entrepreneurial Business Analyst/SharePoint Development Consultant consultant who can be part of our rapidly expanding team in Denver. The position is primarily client facing and will include onsite time with our clients, with the opportunity for some offsite work.

The right individual should have:

  • Experience in analysis, definition and documentation of business processes and requirements.
  • Experience and full understanding of SharePoint functionality and capabilities.
  • Experience with Microsoft SharePoint related tools, e.g. SharePoint Designer, Visio, MS-Excel
  • Experience building SharePoint workflows, site architecture, and custom web parts utilizing SharePoint Designer
  • Strong communication and planning skills, to create communication approach with business area stakeholders and implement ongoing communication protocol.
  • Be well-respected and trusted professionally and very likable personally
  • Be capable of both big-picture thinking and detailed task execution
  • Align well with the TiER1 culture which means they should enjoy collaborative work, be disciplined but entrepreneurial and creative, place a high value on personal relationships and the opportunity to impact people, have very high personal standards of excellence, and value the creation of value for others.

If this describes you, contact us – we’d love to talk to you. Email our recruiter, Monika Royal

Who We’re Looking For
You love working with SharePoint. You are process-driven, and know what it takes to configure an effective solution. You love to collaborate and you get the value of the skills that others bring to the table…but you know how to work independently too. Your strong SharePoint background includes a proven ability to listen to clients and map out workflows that address business needs, while adhering to usability best practices. You’re also not afraid to get your hands dirty, having a good understandig of MOSS and SharePoint Designer. If this describes you then maybe this is a fit…

TiER1 is looking for an energetic, “smart but humble” SharePoint Business Consultant who can be part of our rapidly expanding team.

The right individual should:
• Be a business analyst with experience in facilitating business process discussions and documenting outcomes.
• Have experience in mapping SharePoint capabilities to address business requirements.
• Have experience in mapping workflows and configuring them into SharePoint environments
• Possess knowledge of user interface and user experience best practices
• Have very strong written and oral communication skills.
• Have 3 – 5 years experience with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) and Windows SharePoint Services implementation and deployment, including the creation of custom Web parts
• Demonstrate an understanding of how to build CSS and modify SharePoint master pages, page layouts, themes, and templates according to specifications.
• Have an understanding of working with Microsoft Infopath and Microsoft SharePoint Designer.
• Align well with the TiER1 culture, which means they should enjoy collaborative work, be disciplined but entrepreneurial and creative, place a high value on personal relationships and the opportunity to impact people, have very high personal standards of excellence, and value the creation of value for others.

If this describes you, contact us – we’d love to talk to you.

Other information:

Forget the agency drama and boredom of corporate and join a true “Great Place to Work”. We’re 99.99% jerk-free!*

If you are crazy into developing for SharePoint, have a super-high level of systems skill and a great understanding of SharePoint infrastructure, you will LOVE working at TiER1. We are seeking a standout SharePoint Technical consultant who can sling code, talk the talk and develop SharePoint solutions that hit the mark, meeting business expectations.

Think you have what it takes? We’re looking for:

  • Strong SharePoint development/infrastructure/systems skills
  • Experience with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) and Windows SharePoint Services implementation and deployment, including the creation of custom Web parts
  • Proficient in ASP.NET, C#, HTML 4.0, DHTML, XHTML , XML, Visual Basic.NET, JavaScript and Microsoft Visual Studio.
  • 3-5 years of practical application in Microsoft SharePoint 2007/2010 development and experience with Microsoft InfoPath 2007 and Microsoft SharePoint Designer
  • Proven ability to build CSS and modify SharePoint master pages, page layouts, themes, and templates according to specifications.
  • Very good oral and written communications skills
  • Align well with the TiER1 culture, which means they should enjoy collaborative work, be disciplined but entrepreneurial and creative, place a high value on personal relationships and the opportunity to impact people, have very high personal standards of excellence, and value the creation of value for others.

Other information:

*We do allow for an occasional bad day.

For a small consulting firm of 60 people (and growing), we are pretty unique in that we have a Research and Innovation team within our company. How many can say that? Most of our research is conducted in the area of learning and training performance. Through our Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR grants) for the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and other government agencies, we are able to dedicate our resources to adding value to the research community.

Recently, a team of us went to Colorado Springs to conduct an experiment examining the differences between our accelerated learning/gaming system versus a conventional multimedia training program. The training topic was behavioral detection techniques for insider cyber security threats that supervisors face within the DoD. The turnout was great and we learned a great deal regarding our system in order to prepare us for our next study which is scheduled for late April.

For the second study, we will be conducting research using physiological tests (EEG, eye tracking, etc.) to measure the engagement levels of participants who view our accelerated learning/gaming system versus a conventional multimedia training program. In collaboration with the University of Alabama Birmingham, we will be conducting cutting edge research for the learning space which will highlight the usefulness of gaming/accelerated learning solutions in order to engage learners.

Not only does our research help inform government practices, but we also have recently conducted research that could impact workforce development and recent college graduate students. In late 2010, TiER1 partnered with Northern Kentucky University to conduct a study that measured the impact of accelerated learning and rich assessment of errors on learning. Based on our results, our hypotheses were confirmed and our research demonstrated the significant impact these features were having on learning.

For more information on our research efforts, or if you would like to partner with us at TiER1, feel free to contact us at research@tier1performance.com!

So, I found some great creative inspiration yesterday…rather, inspiration for making great “creative.” I was pointed to a lecture given by John Cleese on his personal creative process. (You know, the guy from the great Monty Python movies.) He had some great insight on cultivating the fertile soil from which creativity can blossom.

First, let me clarify what I mean by “creative,” as the term is used (and in my opinion, misused) so often these days. Many use it as a noun, referring to “the product or products of a designer directly involved in a creative marketing process.” Even worse, others use it to describe the actual design department itself. For the purpose of this blog, I’m using what I’ve found to be the most accurate description I could find – “Creativity is a mental process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.” This definition allows for the understanding that creativity is not limited to those who know how to draw, but identifies it more with the process of innovative thinking…in which any problem-solver (which is pretty much all of us) is involved.

So, with that out of the way – back to Mr. Cleese. In his presentation, he emphasizes the importance of preparing a “creative oasis” for himself in the midst of a frenzied world. He boils his process down to two mandatories: create boundaries of space and time. Easier said than done when facing the daily realities of our individual workloads. However, as every time management book will point out, it’s about working smarter not harder. Securing these boundaries in your day help to avoid creative kryptonite (aka interruption, or as Kevin more eloquently refers to it – cognitive disruption). As we’re well aware, cognitive disruption is essential to learning as it breaks through the conscious and unconscious patterns we use to process information, and ultimately supports retention. However, it is poison to creativity.

Fortunately, we work for a company that understands this phenomenon, and affords us the ability to do things such as working from home upon occasion: an opportunity to be “heads down” on a project…to create our own “creative oasis.” But it doesn’t always have to be working from home. Whether at home or work, it’s important to remember the true measure of our cognitive resources. Tom DeMarko, author of Slack, reported that software developers only have about three good hours of programming time in them each day. Beyond this point, productivity drops and errors increase. The same is true of any creative venture. I’m not advocating 3 hour days (at least not in this forum), rather emphasizing the importance of avoiding mental exhaustion. Walking away from a problem is often the best way to solve it…often referred to as the “incubation effect.”

At first glance, this approach sounds like the slacker’s dream. It’s important to remember that this “luxury” comes with a crucial prerequisite. First, the problem you’re trying to solve must be understood explicitly, and firmly planted in your mind. It’s only at this time that the subconscious can remain at work while we consciously move on to other areas. I can’t tell you how many solutions to yesterday’s problems I’ve discovered in a morning shower. This leads to even more creative problem-solving…how to write it down before I forget it.

John Cleese Video:

The Pittsburgh Ethic

During the interview process, interviewees sometimes ask me what it takes to be successful as an instructional designer in the Pittsburgh office. I usually tell them that like Pittsburghers of the past, they need to wear many hats.

They have to be good writers.


August Wilson, native Pittsburgh playwright and winner of two Pulitzer prizes

They have to be good listeners.
Fred Rogers, native Pittsburgher beloved by millions of children
They have to be committed to constant improvement and learning.
Rachel Carson, inventor of the environment
And they have to work efficiently.
Andrew Carnegie liked efficient workers

Above all, they have to understand the client’s needs. And while that is all true, if I were to synthesize those concepts into one word, I would say that success requires our people to be uncompromising.  Think about it:

  • Did August Wilson compromise when they told him he should write for a more commercial audience? No.
  • Did Fred Rogers compromise when they told him his show should be less neighborly? Huh-uh.
  • Did Rachel Carson compromise when they said she should take it easy on the DDT producers poisoning America? No way!
  • Did Andrew Carnegie compromise when they said he should pay his workers a living wage, give them one day a month off and avoid killing them when they went on strike? NO, NO and HECK NO!

Those great men and women of Pittsburgh’s past are who we take our cues from. Uncompromising in quality, uncompromising in efficiency, uncompromising in commitment to the client’s needs.

And that doesn’t just go for the instructional designers – everyone who touches the product has to be uncompromising in their commitment. Do we work hard? Sure, but not as hard as 19th-century steelworkers. The result is team members who can keep their commitment level high and clients who are happy because their expectations have been exceeded.

All the time people ask us, “How do you make money doing this?” The answer is simple: volume. And being uncompromising.