You and I have read a lot about “Rapid ISD” or “Rapid Development” in the field of T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management.
But are most of those applications you’ve read about – really about “rapid development” of short “training/learning” “courses/modules” and not larger/longer instructional needs? That’s been my take.
How about an Accelerated ISD Approach for 30 days worth of training/learning? How rapid can you design and develop that? On a set of topics/tasks that haven’t been done before? For a Technology Transfer effort worth tens of millions of dollars?
It was not a situation appropriate for Informal Learning.
Definition of Technology Transfer
According to John P. Klus (Effective Technology Transfer, Katakaoffset OY, Helsinki 1985), technology transfer is . . . the transfer of methods, tools, techniques or equipment by which human capability is extended. This includes transfer not only across national boundaries, but from one mind to another, as well. Continuing education is the essential part of technology transfer, with information being passed from university to industry, and from classroom to product.
In one of my past projects, the transfer was from innovator to practitioner—both in search of a product. This was not a time for Informal Learning – although the Target Audience were Ph.D. Chemists. This was a time for FORMAL LEARNING.
If you have ever been challenged with contracting for and/or designing and developing courseware for technology transfers, you know it’s way up there on the degree of difficulty scale. It is an almost impossible task to find designers/developers and instructors who know enough about the new technology to be effective quickly.
The truth is ignorance of the tasks/topics/subject matter is not a stumbling block when coupled with the use of my PACT Process for Modular Curriculum Development (MCD).
PACT is an acronym for Performance-based, Accelerated, Customer-/Stakeholder-driven Training & Development.
The following relates a past project of mine where MCD was an effective tool for technology transfer training from project kick-off through client handoff.
In 1996, one of my long term clients, Eli Lilly and Company, acquired an organization
called Sphinx Pharmaceuticals, which had developed its own innovative approach to combinatorial chemistry. Combinatorial chemistry is a technology used to accelerate the discovery of new drug compounds.
Combinatorial chemistry was so unconventional (in terms of classical chemistry) and the potential for discovery of new drug compounds is increased to such an extent that other pharmaceutical companies wanted to know more about Sphinx’s
process. Sphinx had already been talking to several companies who were interested in entering into a technology transfer agreement.
Combinatorial chemistry was a new technology in and of itself, and courses
had only recently begun to appear in university course catalogs. But no training existed for Sphinx’s unique approach, and Sphinx needed to demonstrate to potential buyers that the training Sphinx would provide would indeed transfer the technology effectively.
This presented a serious problem that merited immediate attention— Sphinx needed to build training for this technology transfer, and they needed to build it quickly.
The training materials had to be finished very quickly after the technology transfer agreement was struck, and the client at Sphinx’s “initial estimate” for the length of training delivery was 30 days. In both the classroom and customized labs.
Using the PACT Approach to Training Development
The urgency of Sphinx’s need combined with the uniqueness of the already highly skilled target audience meant that conventional training development techniques would not be suitable for this project. These needs prompted a search for a training developer with an accelerated training development cycle and reliable methods.
I and my methodology met both these needs. My T&D/Learning clients at the parent company of Sphinx , Eli Lilly, knew from their personal experiences with PACT previously that this was what they needed to use. I had trained some of the ISD staff at Lilly – and some of the staff had been trained by me back when they had been at Amoco years earlier. But this was so critical they decided not to do it themselves. The Risks/Rewards were too great and the need for speed was so great that they asked me to facilitate the analysis and design efforts and then bring in a small army for a divide-and-conquer approach to development and pilot-testing. As the pilot-testing would be with the Ph.D chemists from the company buying the technology transfer.
The stakes were high – for both Sphinx and the ISD leaders at Eli Lilly.
Accelerated Training Development Cycle
Simply stated, the PACT Process for MCD shortens the training development cycle through the use of a standard, structured process; templates for analysis, design and development; and teams. This use of teams distinguishes my PACT methodologies from that of most other ISD methodologies.
While traditional analysis phases can sometimes involve seemingly endless cycles of “interviews and reviews” with subject matter experts (SMEs), practitioners, and business stakeholders, who often don’t agree much on “the what and how to present” the technical content, PACT uses a highly structured and quick, facilitated immersion technique that typically involves intense three- to four-day team meetings in each of the Analysis and Design Phases.
Because the Sphinx project called for such quick turnaround, I abbreviated the normal PACT processes and met for just two days in both instances- analysis and design.
During both meetings, I facilitated a group of 13 innovators/subject matter experts, practitioners, and business stakeholders in a conference room—first, to analyze the work itself and the knowledge/skill enablers, and later, to create a high-level design of the instruction for transferring the technology.
It became a blended set of instruction for the target audience: highly degreed professionals.
The PACT processes for analysis and are “painstakingly detailed” and this was further compounded by the fact that our Sphinx team members hailed from three different locations—Cambridge, MA; Durham, NC; and Indianapolis, IN—each with their own spins on the combinatorial chemistry process. Talk about NIH!
Nevertheless, by using this immersion technique, the Sphinx combinatorial chemistry process was formally defined, differences of opinion were resolved quickly, and a measure of consensus with regard to the work was reached all within the framework of the two-day meetings.
Reliable Methodology – Analysis Phase
The PACT Process for MCD involves an Analysis Phase during which we model existing/desired performance and ferret out (systematically derive) the knowledge/skills that enabled that ideal performance.
PACT’s Performance Modeling techniques allow one to analyze the client’s work accurately, regardless of my own subject matter expertise or lack thereof. I were able to facilitate a group of top-performing research chemists through an analysis of their innovative work even though members of my consulting team had no more technical knowledge than that which we acquired in high school chemistry.
In general, PACT’s premise is that the innovators/SMEs own the Performance Model content and the facilitator (the PACT Practitioner) own the Performance Modeling process.
Using our standard (but abbreviated) Analysis Phase, I and the team modeled
Sphinx’s combinatorial chemistry process, defined the high-level outputs and tasks for each phase of their process, identified enabling knowledge/skill requirements, and discussed the specialized needs and culture (Japanese) of the potential target audience.
As so often happens, the Analysis Team could not initially imagine how the fruits of their analysis labor, the analysis data, would evolve into a valid training design. But at this point I knew the analysis data was pretty reliable because the innovators/SMEs and practitioners’ thoughts turned to the activities and outputs of the next phase. That’s always a welcome clue/cue that you’re on track.
Reliable Methodology – Design Phase
Using PACT visual design templates/tools, I then facilitated the team through a process of designing the training while making sure that all the content from the Performance Model and Knowledge/Skill Matrices were covered at some point in what became 3 T&D Events.
This would ultimately serve as the foundation for Sphinx’s combinatorial chemistry technology transfer. We began the design process by discussing and then “chunking” the training conceptually into these three major Events, each with a different end goal in terms of learning objectives.
Although the Master Performers and SMEs thought the need for learning objectives a bit silly. It was clear in their heads- they thought- and so “why bother? While my Eli Lilly client’s ISD staff observers fought in the meeting for the group to establish formal learning objectives – I can go on without it. It has always been my view that the performance objectives can easily be “backed out” from the content in the Performance Model. that articulates the “terminal objectives” quite clearly. And the enabling objectives are “backed out” via the eanbling K/Ss on the K/S matrices.
But not everybody sees that immediately.
The three T&D Events were:
- Event A – consisted of an introduction to Sphinx’s approach to combinatorial chemistry and an orientation to this customized training process. This training event was delivered at the client site.
- Event B – was a detailed set of training lessons/instructional activities that supported the technology transfer using several different (blended) delivery strategies at the Sphinx/Lilly sites. This is where all of the analysis data ended up – in terms of the instructional design. PACT uses all of the analysis data in a structured design process. Why collect it if you are not going to use it in design?
- Event C – was an element of ongoing coaching and support.
Within each T&D Event, individual lessons were then defined at a high level, classified in terms of “Instructional Activity” type: information, demonstration, or application (in the lab) – and those were grouped into modules/lessons.
Once again, I knew the training design was appropriate/acceptable because the team
was all of a sudden attempting to envision how the training design would evolve into the actual training materials. Another welcome clue/cue!
I can always tell, even as a non-SME, that the current PACT work efforts are acceptable – when the focus of the thoughts of the groups I am working with moves on to the next set of downstream activities and outputs, and off of what we’ve just accomplished.
“The Rest of the Story”
Based on the success of the training design, Sphinx contracted with my team to continue with the Development Phase of the project, led by one of my most experienced associates, Dottie Soelke. Dottie was playing the “role” of Lead Developer. One of the 5 key PACT Practitioner “Roles” across the 3-levels of ISD that PACT addresses.
Our team process always seems grueling while the meetings are in progress, and the Sphinx project was no exception. Even so, it was our intense focus during the two-day Design Team meeting (and subsequent, equally laborious Design Review Team meeting) that enabled the Development Team to move through the Development Phase much more rapidly than we otherwise would have been able to accomplish using more traditional approaches to ISD.
Five of my staff developers used the PACT Processes’ “divide and conquer” technique so that they could work in parallel using the Lesson Specifications created by the Design Team to guide them in their “innovator/SME detailed content interviews” to develop the first-draft training materials.
At this point, we did use the services of one training developer with a background in organic chemistry to help develop the most technical lessons. An issue the training design made visible was the need for a course map that could be adjusted in real time – as the duration of each individual lab exercise was completely unpredictable, and the timing of the training delivery was, to some extent, dependent on the learners progress through the labs in a particular order.
As a result, we developed a “dynamic course map”—a calendar and magnetic preprinted “lesson blocks” on a white board that the instructors could change as necessary.
We further accelerated the development process by formally incorporating Sphinx’s innovators/SMEs as part of the Development Team, a consistent approach we always use in the Development/Acquisition phases of the PACT Process for MCD/IAD.
Consequently, by the time Sphinx succeeded in striking a technology transfer agreement with a leading Japanese pharmaceutical company (with more than 40 years of experience in the prescription drug field), the training was ready for delivery.
Delivering the training was more difficult than we had hoped it would be. Differences in language, culture, degrees of technical expertise, etc., got in the way on a regular basis and Sphinx had to spend more resources during the delivery process for this customer, than they had originally planned.
However, the training was found flexible enough and the Sphinx instructors, coaches, and supporting staff were skilled enough to make midcourse corrections when they were necessary. Most importantly, the technology transfer was successful and Sphinx’s client was happy.
To quote a source at Sphinx, the client “signed up for a Cadillac and they got a Lexus.” Sorry about that Detroit! Their words, not ours!
When people start to talk about their Rapid Development efforts, as how long they might spend in analysis and design prior to development for T&D/Learning that is targeted at 30 days in length for a technical topic, such as chemistry is.
Just how fast and reliable is their Rapid approach?
Is it as fast as PACT?
PACT has proven itself fast and flexible many times. Many times prior to 1994 and many times since.
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