From Product to Process: Implementing an Iterative Training Development Model

Iterative Training Development Model

Are you developing training products or learning processes? This is not one of those blog posts looking to divide the L&D community. It’s a genuine question that I think we should all be asking ourselves. I would think that as with most things the best answer is, “a little bit of both”. But what does that look like?

Technology changes quickly these days. And so do most businesses. Nothing is ever sitting around very long without it changing. Nothing, that is, except for most training products. But that’s actually changing too.

Here’s another question to ask yourself. How often does your team update course content? Once a year? If you have courses that have been taken but not updated in the last 12 months you may be doing more harm than good. It’s hard to visualize a modern business that doesn’t change more frequently than that. But, then again, not all training content requires frequent updates. A good example is training content on the history of the business. That content might start looking a little old over time but that’s based on production quality, not the content. But just about everything else that we create training for changes rapidly. And the future of the training department will be defined by how fast it can keep up.

Shifting Your Mindset from Product to Process

Or maybe more precisely, adding an additional mindset. In this case I define product as a training event that is designed, developed, and delivered and then left untouched until a complete re-design, re-development, re-delivery becomes necessary. And yes, when a learner takes a self-paced online course, that counts as an event too. Currently most instructional design models follow this one-off production model. I see the future of training development being a much more dynamic process with more flexibility to quickly modify itself as the business dictates. Maybe not all of the training development, but a sizable portion depending on your specific industry.

The idea of defining an ongoing development process is not new. It’s borrowed from the popular ideas in Lean Manufacturing later adapted to businesses in the book The Lean Startup. The basic idea is constant iterative improvements based on data. Is it possible to create a training development process focused on topics or job roles with the content iteratively changing based on data?

This is where a flexible Learning Management Platform shines.

Training products are the events that are created as all-inclusive learning experiences that require a set amount of time to complete. The Training event could be an ILT or self-paced online course. Or maybe it’s a blended learning experience with a little bit of both. And both parts of that experience require some management, organization, and logistical planning. If your thinking about creating this experience as a one-and-done product then any old LMS will do. But if you work in a face-paced industry with changing needs, then you need to define a development process that involves delivery while continually developing. The first iteration may simply be an ILT course with a SME instructing the course. Then after receiving some feedback you decide that the fundamental content could be quickly developed into a pre-ILT module. This is a great example of an iterative development process in Litmos. It’s not the complete process. But it’s a common beginning to course development in an iterative model.

Obviously not all content fits into this model. Not all industries are flexible enough to apply this model. Not all corporate cultures will be accepting of this model. But once you find the right content at the right time, you will begin to see how much more value you can add to the business. In some cases where in the past you needed to say no to a training request you can now get the training started. You can confidently start because you know it’s not one-and-done. You know it’s only the beginning of your new iterative development process.