Performance-based Curriculum Architecture Design via a Group Process – What Was True in 1984 is Still True Today

The longer you’ve been involved in Learning – or Training – the more likely you’ve seen entire sets of content come and go.

You’ve probably seen huge investments in content, instructional AND informational, development that were “released” and then LET go – until it slowly crept more and more “out-of-date” – until it was eventually “pulled” by the higher-ups due to risk avoidance needs, or something to that effect.


You built/bought it – for a first cost – but then didn’t attend to the inevitable life cycle costs. I see this over and over again. I wish more attended to “content management” as a product manager would.

One issue in the biz that I have been focused on since the early 1980s is Content Reuse. Bill Wiggenhorn had challenged all of us at MTEC in 1981 to look for ways to move content out of the classroom – and to look for ways to better share much of it.

That’s driven my design methods, rules, templates, etc. for Curriculum Architecture work (designs at multiple levels (3) plus the analysis methods, rules, etc.). And of course I wanted that level of ISD – Curriculum Architecture – to smoothly feed any downstream new content development efforts – which in my model is termed: MCD – Modular Curriculum Development. A little more on that later.


CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design – is an engineering/architectural approach to modular design – not the design of modules. That interestingly enough comes later, in the MCD efforts – the ADDIE-like efforts of the PACT Processes for T&D/ Learning/ Knowledge Management.

CAD is done quickly in 4 Phases – which could probably all be accomplished in 8-10 working days with everyone in the same room for the entire process. Which would “speed to market” at the cost of “more time investments than necessary” for all of the members for each of the teams. I’ve done 74 of these since 1982, and they typically are completed in 40 to 60 calendar days.


In the first Phase you are determining the scope, the plan and getting “wired” with a Project Steering Team of real stakeholders – folks who would really want this to be successful and not a waste of every ones time and energies. And the folks with the resources – people – to make this happen and happen WELL!
I always tell the PST at the beginning of the first meeting (and all others as well) that they will have these 4 options at the end of this “GRM – Gate Review Meeting” – 1) KILL the project as it doesn’t make business sense; 2) DEFER the project until it is more timely; 3) MODIFY the approach to be more appropriate to the situation; 4) SUPPORT the plan as is. They always like being to be able to pull the plug if this isn’t enough bang for the buck.
If we go forward, we go forward into Phase 2: Analysis. Our assembled Analysis Team is brought to a consensus regarding ideal performance, the current state gaps and “probable” causes (not root causes thoroughly tested/vetted). And from that the enabling Knowledge/ Skills are derived.
After the Analysis Team meeting is finished the data is used to assess existing content for it’s reuse (here) potential: either- as is or after modification (AI or AM) or NA…Not Applicable.
All of that data is prepared for review with the PST in another GRM. If that passes muster we go into Phase 3 to process that data into the design outputs. Not by ourselves – but with a sub-set of the Analysis Team, the new Design Team – with “NO” new players.

Then, using the concepts behind PACT’s Modular Design “logic” a T&D Path is engineered…or as we say in PACT…architected. Modular-ly. The existing content is placed – and the gaps are identified. This is reviewed in the Phase 3 PST GRM.


Then if the project is to go forward it moves into Phase 4: Implementation Planning.
Not all gaps are equal. Some should be left as gaps. Left to “Un-Structured OJT” – or what is now known as Informal learning. Except that we at least can name it and link it back to the authentic Performance Competence requirements.
These graphics BTW are by Lynn Kearny – a friend from ISPI. Lynn and I served on the ISPI Board in 1999-2001.

This next graphics shows the outputs of a CAD effort. Click on it to see it larger and or to make a copy for yourself.

CADs lead to MCDs – see the next two graphics.
MCD is my adaptation of ADDIE – in which I remove more of the unnecessary “iterations” that many claim are part of ADDIE. Not my version. I dislike REWORK. I need my methods to be a lot more predictable than those methods that embrace iterations. My philosophy does not.
These PACT methods, CAD and then MCD, have been proven in hundreds and hundreds of projects by myself, my partners, employees and clients’ staff members whom I have trained directly or indirectly. When others can do them too – that’s your L3.
And if they get asked to “do it again” there is at least a perceived “enough R for the I” by those requesters to warrant continuation.
My Clients for these kinds of ISD/ID services – since 1982 – include:
Abbott Laboratories, ALCOA, ALCOA Labs, Alyeska Pipeline Services Company, American Management Systems, Ameritech, Amoco Corporation, Arthur Anderson, ARCO of Alaska, AT&T, AT&T Communications, AT&T Microelectronics, AT&T Network Systems, Bandag, Bank of America, Baxter, Bellcore Tech, British Petroleum-America, Burroughs, Channel Gas Industries/Tenneco, Commerce Clearing House, Data General, Detroit Ball Bearing, Digital Equipment Corporation, Discover Card,
Dow Chemical, EDS, Eli Lilly, Exxon Exploration, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, Ford Design Institute, Ford Motor Company, General Dynamics, General Motors, GTE, H&R Block,Hewlett Packard, Illinois Bell, ImperialBondware, Imperial Oil, Johnson Controls, Lockheed, MCC Powers, Motorola,Multigraphics, NASA,NASCO,NAVAIR,NAVSEA, NCR, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Northern Telecom, Northern Trust Bank, NOVA,Novacor, Occidental Petroleum Labs, Pacific Gas & Electric, Siemens Building Technologies, Spartan Stores, Sphinx Pharmaceuticals, Square D Company,Valuemetrics, Verizon, and Westinghouse Defense Electronics.
BTW:CADs do not produce any new content. It defines the performance-based needs, determines what already exists for reuse, and prioritizes the gaps for make or buy, or both. Then MCD effort build/buy the content needed – and test it thoroughly before making it General Availabile – if you think like a Product Manager about it all.
These methods are covered in some detail in my book: lean-ISD, available as a free PDF at
Or you can buy a hardbound or Kindle copy from That book, started in the mid 1980s was originally titled: The Curriculum Product Managers Handbook. The late Geary Rummler had suggested the eventual title – and he did the cover design too!
When you develop and/or acquire content per an architecture, you’ll get greater reuse and serve more for less. How much redundancy could you avoid and how many more target audiences could you serve?
Remember: Reducing costs $1 goes straight to the bottom line as $1. Increasing Revenues is great – but if you Reduce Costs – that is just as – if not more – worthy of your efforts! Making an extra dollar (or yen, etc.) might be easier or tougher than reducing costs an extra dollar.
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One comment on “Performance-based Curriculum Architecture Design via a Group Process – What Was True in 1984 is Still True Today

  1. Pingback: My Site’s Top 30 Posts/Pages Since 2007 | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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