Saturday, March 27, 2010

And ADDIE wasn't even there to see it...

There's been lot of talk in Twitterland lately about the usefulness of the ADDIE process model often used in instructional design (much on the theme of whether ADDIE is dead), and the validity/existence of "informal" learning. I saw it all hit overlap this week in 2 separate encounters with service employees.

In the first, I was purchasing a prepaid gift card at a drug store. The transaction brought the place to a halt, with the register giving off that dull 'thunk' sound as unhappy computers will. The cashier fumbled with the register, pressed a number of keys to no avail, said she "wasn't sure" if the card was activated, and finally called for a manager, who quickly took care the problem. As I left -- after a one-item cash transaction that took maybe 5 minutes -- the cashier said, "They told me that in training but I hadn't done it before. Sorry, but I forgot."

In this first instance, performance support could have supplemented, or likely replaced, training simply by programming help screens and prompts. Training for future use of a skill is pretty much pointless. It would be like not training at all, but for adding the maddening "I think I heard something about this" factor to an already frustrating situation. The solution here is not based in designing-implementing-evaluating instruction, but in identifying places for, and deploying resources toward, good performance support.

In the second instance, last night, my husband and I were at a restaurant. A new server appeared in the company of the more experienced server charged with training him. The training pretty much took the form of job shadowing, with the experienced guy modeling good (in fact, breathtaking, exemplary) performance. Occasionally he would ask the new guy something like, "What do we always ask when someone orders coffee?" (Answer: "Would you like cream?"). They stayed together most of the time we were there, merging into what my husband called The Waiter with Four Arms, and appeared to be having both a good and successful time. We enjoyed them, and had no complaints with the service. By the time we left the new server was taking his first steps at working on his own, and as far as we could tell he was doing just fine.

In this second scenario, we see something on the learning continuum between formal (in the sense of an intentional,planned event, either live or online) and informal (in the sense of an employee at the point of need accessing help)learning. Basically:

--the 'trainer' (more experienced server) was the performance support
--as a peer,actually doing the same job, the trainer was able to provide real-world suggestions
--the learning experience appeared to be a successful one
--as a side effect, the experience appeared to be forcing better performance from the trainer
--and I'm afraid ADDIE wasn't anywhere to be found. There was no deliberate process, no 'steps'. The new guy followed the more experienced guy around, and the more experienced guy demonstrated and explained. And it worked.

I'm not interested in the dead/undead discussion of ADDIE so much as concerned about the desire on the part of many to apply it to every situation. As L & D professionals we need to have many items in our toolkits. ADDIE is one. What others do you use?


hollymacdonald said...

Great post - I love how you described in from the perspective of the customer. That is really the point of what we do as L&D professionals - not whether or not we create good training, but whether or not we help address a business problem (or avert a business problem in the scenarios you've described).
I'm an HPT girl at heart, really. Personally I think if we spent more time analyzing the performance situation, we could more effective. As I've said before, I still use ADDIE, more like AdAddiE. Lots of A and E, iterative on the d.
Love to hear what others are using.

Donald Clark said...

Jane, while there are a lot of tools to be had in our kit, the one that I recommend the most is a book, - "The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results." If the first person in your post had been trained using the principles of this book, you would have had a much different experience.

Don't take my word for it, read Will Thalheimer's excellent review:

I have used this book as a basis for train-the-trainer classes and have received some excellent results.

JeffJ said...

Hey Jane! I'm with you on this one, with apologies to Mr. Clark. Workers don't need to be "trained" to memorize rarely-used tasks. I'm with you that better performance support would be the right solution. Too often trainers see a training solution where none really exists.

Jeff said...

Loved the article... Often 'one stop shopping' for training means just that... You'll only get this training once, so cram it in! I much prefer the
1) I do.
2) I do, you watch.
3) You do, I watch.
4) You do.

Dave H. said...

Key words "I never had a chance to do it"
Missing from ADDIE:
1) Immediately and intentionally adapt training tactics to particpants' learning capabilities
2) Deliver the material effectively
3) Let them do it

Leo said...

Hello Jane,

I love your post because you give real-life examples to support your assertions. You've observed workplace functions in real time and have applied L&D principles to what you've seen.

I'd have to object, however, to comparing the two situations. I see comparing a cashier and a waiter as apples and oranges.

The cashier's function you described, while important to the retail sales function, was simply one step in a longer process. While the cashier may have been an outstanding salesperson, you were only judging her for one small aspect of her job. The waiter, however, you observed performing a range of his core activities, and judged the on-site training he was receiving in the context of the whole.

What's my point? Different strokes for different functions: the type of training depends a great deal on the function being trained. A cashier's duties are but one aspect of the whole, whereas a waiter can be viewed as performing a craft, very nearly an art. For this reason the apprenticeship relationship that you so accurately observed is entirely appropriate. Apprenticeship is also appropriate for a sales position, but certainly not for the supporting sub-function of operating a cash register.

Jane Bozarth said...

Hi Leo, sorry? In the first instance I recommended performance support/onscreen prompts, not apprenticeship. Also, I think they are exactly the same. Employees need to be provided with whatever will help them PERFORM their jobs, which organization training functions seem to miss time and again. The goal should be PERFORMANCE. Training is only one tool to help achieve that, and one I see as increasingly less relevant or useful.

Mike Petersell said...


Great post. I am in charge of onboarding newly hired sales execs. I often find myself fighting with people to keep things out of the onboarding program that others want us to add in. I try to explain that hearing about something once that the new hires are not likely to encounter for a few months is of no use them. Luckily we do have a strong online performance support tool for sales execs. It has information about our products, our customers, our markets, etc. We focus our training efforts on helping the reps navigate the tool to find the things they need - and we did use ADDIE to design the program. I don't think it is dead yet. We also include more informal elements in the program such as ride alongs with experienced reps. I bet the approach you witnessed with the waiter and his shadow was a planned informal component of a designed training program.

Allison said...

Enjoyed the post, both the points and the examples.

What I'd add is that it is not either/or. Performance support would be much better for the cash register transaction, but it's not just a transaction. It's a service event and must be understood in that larger context, of the person "getting" corp culture and recognizing the nature of your request. You might have said it clearly. Many do not. Knowing when to reach for perf support and how to access it actually takes some knowing and thus some training, too.

Might find book I wrote with Lisa Schafer interesting on topic of kinds of performance support: planners and sidekicks. This was an opportunity for a sidekick. If we got our sales people to reflect on the success of their interactions and resolutions and provided them support in doing it, that would be a planner.
The site includes performance support on when to use performance support.


Jane Bozarth said...

Interesting take, Allison, but in this case I'd disagree that performance support required training. Prompts on the cash register screen would have worked -- and in case you missed it, the cashier said she HAD been trained.

I just went to upload a photo to Facebook. Onscreen prompts guided me -- no training required. And the next time I want to upload a picture, I won't need to remember how: The performance support tools will guide me through it again.

JeffJ said...

Hey Jbo, Funny to watch those who are married to training refusing to see that any other option could work. The defensiveness is deafening.

Kudos to you, though, for letting others use your blog to hawk their books.

Jane Bozarth said...

Hey Jeff-- I do recommend Allison's book-- it's the last word on job aids/perf support.

Tricia said...

I'm a big fan of apprenticeship (I used to be the experienced server training newbies). I've also worked retail, and I've been that cashier. Now I have a Masters in HPI, and I see your point. For me, it's about performance, not training.

However, I don't know if ADDIE is dead quite yet. Although you saw the shadowing, that part of the new server's training is usually a piece of a larger training program, most likely designed using the ADDIE model.

To me, ADDIE is about the designing the best possible learning experiences that are invisible to the learner and others. Just as with a good LMS - it is only a tool to help increase performance.

I don't see why ADDIE can't exist in harmony and conjunction with other tools. I try to use ADDIE as more of a project management tool to structure the development, but with my own "improvements" to the model.

Jane Bozarth said...

Hi, Tricia, and thanks. Back to my last paragraph: What other tools do you use?

Typegeek said...

Finally... a Learning blog worth reading! I'll be paying more attention in the future Jane.

Its hard to say what method I use, as anything I create could have had the ADDIE model applied to it, just like it could have had any model to it.

A recent, small piece I recently did which I think will yield good results was done by focusing on:
train - practice - assess. Actually, the assess part will come much later in a different way, but its still part of the same puzzle.

Usually much of my instructional work has just been simple web pages with diagrams, so I've never taken a formalized approach but I will be doing so in the future to try and improve learning, and make myself more marketable (some job search algorithms are looking for the word ADDIE these days).

Karen Smith said...

Great examples. Performance support tools make perfect sense for those infrequent use cases. Cashier needs solid fundamentals on use of register for basic functions, extended functions = performance support (embedded. There's no reason in today's tech world that we should be handling paper/laminated cards/plastic doohickeys that attach, and then fall off, of registers.)

With the waiter/trainee example - while I agree that it worked, and likely is the best solution for that business, the biggest issues with apprenticeship are twofold. First, it's a scale issue. How do you train thousands in a short period of time? You'd be subjecting all of your customers to a possibly less-than-ideal customer experience (how many customers are going to wait patiently while the waiter quizzes the trainee about coffee service?) The second ties in with the first - how can you guarantee you're leveraging the *actual* best practices of an organization if you're relying only on the apprenticeship model? What if the mentor your trainee is assigned to is performing his/her job adequately, but has inefficiencies or poor customer service habits that are now being transferred into your new trainee?

So I think apprenticeship makes sense on a limited basis, but it can't be the only learning solution, particularly not for most corporate learners (because apprenticing the guy who processes purchase orders involves a lot of sitting next to him in a chair at his desk and dozing off as he clicks lines in a spreadsheet.)

I do like what another poster said, though - the I do, you watch, You do, I watch model - that works really well for assessing the performance and capabilities of the trainee in the real-world setting, without expecting that to be the ONLY or ENTIRE learning experience, but rather some level of assessment.

Enjoying your blog! I work in eLearning strategy and have picked up some good ideas.