ISD – Reduced to Practice – By Design

A System of Instruction

Back in the early 1990s a colleague at SWI – Svenson & Wallace Inc declared that I had “reduced to practice, all of the concepts, models, methods, tools, templates and techniques on ISD” with my PACT Processes for CAD and for MCD (the ADDIE-like level of the PACT Processes.

Good, I thought. That was my intent, as I needed to reduce the variation in my consulting staff’s performance of the methodologies that we sold as fixed fee projects. PACT was intended to be more predictable, by design. One CAD effort had to potentially leverage off and ReUse some of the designed, modular Content from a prior project.

One example is the DESIGN series steps in the CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design “process” – where in Phase 3 we prepare for, conduct and then document the design of one or more T&D Paths – also known as Learning Paths, Development Roadmaps, etc.

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After a formal, structured Kick-Off Presentation, from an edited template, the Design Team Meeting – composed of Master Performers minimally along with perhaps, as appropriate, Other SMEs, Management of the Target Audience(s), and maybe even Novice Performers – gets going.

And they will follow – be facilitated as a group – through the following 7 steps.

WARNING: the criticality of the completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of the incoming ANALYSIS DATA that is to be “processed” in those 7 steps cannot be overstated. Doing this with garbage data will lead to garbage results. OK?

STEP 1- Establish the Path – with those on the Design Team. Review who it is for, who that target audience is, what we can safely generalize about them, the amount of or lack of variability in their job assignments, in terms of tasks and outputs.

Then I tell them that I am arbitrarily breaking the Path into 3 segments to start the process: Beginning , Middle and End. Then we discuss what that means in our context. When would the Beginning end, and the Middle begin?

Together we establish this Path in our collective minds, with some shared understanding about the Beginning – and how far that goes? Does it end with the immediate survival skills (store clerk who can learn more over time as needs dictate), or does it cover the whole job (air line pilot who has to know it all day 1 at the wheel as there is no time to learn as needs arise). And we have discussed and framed the MIDDLE and END as well. We need to really establish this collectively to be effective in the next steps.

STEP 2- anchors the T&D Path to Performance, when you have the kind of data that PACT generates in the prior Phase to be used here. And that data are the Output/Task Clusters (because that’s just the tip of that data iceberg).

If ADDIE where the Areas of Performance for our target audience – then we might put the I for Implementation up early in the path as we tend to start our staff THERE doing delivery, and then the 2nd “D” for Development up next, as that’s where we take our delivery folks that want to go there. Then some might move into Design, and then learn analysis and then we have them become Client Relations Managers or Project Planners and Managers.

Now we know the sequence of development/ training/ learning. We decide where in the B-M-E each of those are addressed, further clarifying for us all, that Path and it’s structure. But now there is time to put some meat on those bones.

STEP 3- is where we sort all of the Existing T&D Content that was assessed in the prior Phase for its appropriateness for ReUse. So if we had a course on writing learning objectives we’d place that where the 1st “D” for Design was at, because that’s where it happens in our view of the Process. Yours may vary. After all of that is place on the Path where it will now go – in the suggested sequence of the Path – which is needed to go on to the next step.

STEP 4- place the Enabling K/S from Analysis – the prior Phase generated a lot of enabling Knowledge and Skills data – and now that is place on the Path in front of the Output/Task data that it would enable. Thinking about this as if it will end up being a straight-line Path may be helpful – but that may not last long once you and the DT step back to assess your work at this point.

All of the ANALYSIS DATA has been processed at this point. What you and the Design Team have in front of them is a logical order for the potential sequence – one way at least – through all of the content, instruction and information, packaged in various Media or as it might come up in a structured OJT conversation that the learner/Performer has been given – to edit/resequence the Path via a Planning Guide – before using it in a Quasi-Formal approach to some Informal Learning need. Informal Learning still needs to enable Performance Competence.


STEP 5- to Modular-ize the content, and cluster that analysis data on the Path’s Beginning – Middle – End segments into T&D Modules. Think: book chapters. Which of this content logically goes together and is modular enough to let those who already know something, skip that because it is another Module (not true, but useful thinking in processes at this point). Always start at the beginning of the beginning of the Path when doing this. Once all of the analysis data is in one Module or another it is time to think about the book level of design.

STEP 6- is where the content is Event-ized. If a Module is a book, then you are now at the final packaging step where you put some modules into one Event that may be a classroom (less flexibility there for skipping Modules) and other Models into Events that might be elearning, or coached sessions (Structured OJT), etc. Again, always start at the beginning of the beginning of the Path when doing this. Once every Module has a home in an Event, you are done with what goes where and how is this being packaged.

STEP 7- Clean up the Path. Always start at the beginning of the beginning of the Path when doing this as well. Attend to Module and Event titles and please please please think: Truth in Titles – and avoid cute titles that don’t help the learner/Performer and their management what’s behind that curtain. Make it easy Use some title-ing conventions that everyone will learn how to decode over time. Attend to the estimated lengths for each Module and then add those up to see how long the Event is estimated to be – and still with a plus or minus 25% fuzziness factor.

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I conclude this collaborative CAD Design Process with a Formal Design Team Debriefing, say thank you and goodbye to everyone, and pack everything up.

And then we, the PACT Process Facilitators, go back to the ranch to enter the data into the PACTool (database), embellish it as we feel appropriate based on the insights we have gained, and prepare for the PST GRM – the Project Steering Team and their Gate Review Meeting. Think: gauntlet – by design.

More about that can be gleaned from my book: lean-ISD available here.

Cover design by the late Geary A. Rummler.

Post updated in 2020.

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