T&D: Backward Chaining Development- Design- Analysis

I am writing this post due to my confusion/ concern over what’s written about Instructional Development – a.k.a.: Learning Development/ Training Development – and the need for an Agile or SAM approach.

I’ve never understood that/those approaches – as they declare immediately that we cannot be predictable about the cycle time, the touch time, the costs, or the quality of the output.

As someone who has been in the biz since 1979 and always started efforts with an approved Project Plan – with predicted costs, dates, touch times and cycle times … I thought it was THE GREAT EXCUSE for Poor Practices – and a lack of focus on terminal Task Performance – and its Outputs – versus the very prevalent focus on Topics.


So … let’s backward chain from the Development Phase and Pilot-Test Phase. I know many approaches combine these – but I’ve been separating them since the 1980s – for emphasis.

Phase 5 – Pilot Test & Phase 4 – Development

As I have always seen the Pilot-Test – as a full destructive test – as The Acid Test.

So that crapola wouldn’t be deployed.

To get ready for the Pilot-Test – I planned the touch times and cycle times around 3 Versions* of the Content – at the Lesson Level – as I assigned Developers to intact Lessons**:

  • Alpha Version
  • Beta Version
  • Pilot-Test Version

*Except for any Lessons From Hades which were planned for 5 Versions most of the time.

**And a Developer would be assigned to all Lessons that built on each other.


In the Pilot Test – I split the attendees – Master Performers and Target Audience members – so that I could measure accuracy/completeness and appropriateness with the former and measure the learning (Level 1 and 2) with the latter. Level 3 and 4 were done by the client for the first few classes about 6 months out – before they quit.

Phase 3 – Design

My approach to both Development and the preceding Design was to plan on a divide-and-conquer strategy where I could load up on Developers for parallel development in order to reduce the Cycle time for that Phase – which is typically the longest Phase.

And to reduce costs they would not be involved in the earlier Phases. Which meant the Analysis and Design data flowing in to that Phase – and the Phase Kick-Off efforts – needed to provide everything necessary for guiding the efforts of those Developers and the assigned Master Performers and SMEs – who were also considered Developers on the Development Team.

The Design data is at 3 levels:

  • Event Map & Specification
  • Lesson Maps & Specifications
  • Instructional Activity Specifications

The Lesson map is the heart of the Design effort – as it provides a visual map for the Design Team that creates it and for the Project Steering Team that reviews it and approves or amends it.


And yes – we used the language of “The Lesson From Hades” (The Lesson From Hell) in polite company – deliberately – as we needed to signal to all – that THIS was an Issue.

Our RED FLAG if you will.

Phase 2 – Analysis

We most likely had a sense about where those RED FLAGS were based on the Analysis data and efforts – where you could see in the Typical Gaps and their Probable Causes – their roots.

We could see the Lessons From Hell/Hades like a freight train coming – long before it arrived during Development.


And just because there were Red Flagged Lessons From Hades – didn’t mean I would plan and predict my costs and the schedule – long before.

The Illinois Bell Effort

The first time I formally used the Lesson Map and the Activity Spec in an MCD (my ADDIE-like) effort was for a 1990 “Labor Relations for 1st Line Supervisors” training program – for Illinois Bell – that was guessed in the Project Planning & Kick-Off Phase – by me – as being either 2 or 3 or 4 days in length – because clients liked knowing that up front.

This was my first formal attempt to extend my Curriculum Architecture Design via a Group Process into my version of ADDIE: MCD – Modular Curriculum Development – resulting in what soon became the Lesson Map and Specifications for a modular Event.

1990 Ill Bell Labor Relations Detailed Design Document

Right after the project I made updates in language/labels for the Design Outputs – including an Event Map and Specification, a Lesson Map and Specification, and the Instructional Activity Specification (no Map was needed IMO – although one could have been created).

See the schedule at the very end of the Design Document and the Lesson Assignments as well.

Phase 1 Project Planning & Kick-Off

I still planned and set a date for every Project Steering Team Gate Review Meeting – see the traffic lights in the MCD graphic – and presented those in the 1st PST meeting in Phase 1.

The client didn’t really believe we would hit the aggressive schedule – it was my first project with them – and so when it came time to “Go To Pilot” they hadn’t booked the rooms at the facilities – and we were delayed a week.

But because we didn’t have too many post-Pilot revisions – we hit the end date for turning over the final master materials. We didn’t have many revisions due to the inclusion of key Master Performers on the Analysis Team, the Design Team, the Development Team – and the Pilot Test Team.

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