Loose-Tight in My Process Orientation – As Needed

I posted this a few days back on UpSkilling/ReSkilling – which is “all the rage” … again.

That generated a comment/question from Chet Stevenson…

Ahhh, I love this. How do you approach processes where the organization wants to leave freedom within a framework? Typically for creative roles – I understand the intent but it can sometimes be difficult to outline guidelines.

My online answer on Twitter:

Back in the 70s or 80s Tom Peters called it either Tight-Loose or Loose-Tight. I’ve been saying for decades that: “Processes should be as Rigorous as Required and as Flexible as Feasible.” I believe my ISD processes are.


The Concept of “Simultaneous Loose-Tight Properties” is from In Search of Excellence (1983) by Tom Peters & Robert H. Waterman, Jr.

Back in 1983 – as almost everyone in my group of clients was reading this – so, me too – and I took it to mean Processes that are both “Loose-Tight” allow for a specific Output while allowing for a flexible set of Tasks to produce it.

I think I was already Process-Oriented before learning “how to be” from Rummler indirectly 1979-1981 and then directly 1981-1982. And during 1981-1982 I was exposed to the thinking and writing of Deming – and that too reinforced my Process-Orientation.

So that Process-Orientation was a bandwagon I could jump onto immediately post-college.

In college, doing film projects, I had seen my peers do things quite backward causing us to do way too much rework, as I had always approached doing my projects in a very detailed planned way – all drawn up on paper, including my script-driven storyboard, with all camera locations predetermined – from my earlier site survey. I’d move my camera the minimum number of times and for example, shoot scenes 1,3, 5, 7 before moving the camera to point 180 to shoot scenes 2, 4, 6, and 8.

My approach was honed at Wickes Lumber when I shifted from the Development Department to the Video Production Department – when they became short-handed – shared in this post from 2007.


If the Performance is High Stakes – with High Risks and/or High Rewards – then you might use SOPs – Standard Operating Procedures to guide and govern the What, Where, When, Who, and How – as the WHY is evident to management and leadership – and perhaps to regulatory agencies.


This is truly Whatever, Whenever, However – as I tend to partially phrase it – and – no way to run a railroad – as that old saw goes.

And yet there are times when you leave Performance – the Output and Task specifics to the Performers – usually reserved for experienced Performers to use their education and experience as they see fit.

Implications for Performance-Based ISD/LXD Practitioners

Those few, from the many, in the ISD/LXD world who are intent on impacting Business Results via Improving the Performance Competence of their Target Audiences have to determine what is appropriate regarding those 3 options:

  • Tight-Tight
  • Loose-Tight
  • Loose-Loose

Learning Experiences for Tight-Tight Processes

These situations often – not always – are guided with SOPs, or other guidance – and that’s the anchor your Instruction/Learning Experience should use. Then it’s a matter of deriving the enabling Knowledge/Skills.

This would be one of the rare instances where the Process isn’t Informal – unnamed, unmeasured, and unmanaged. The ISD/LXD Analysis effort is much much much easier than the norm. Congratulations! The hard work has already been done.

Learning Experiences for Loose-Tight Processes

Most likely – as it’s all too often the norm – this would be one of the more typical instances where the Process is Informal – meaning: unnamed, unmeasured, and unmanaged.

The ISD/LXD Practitioner is challenged thusly:

  • What is its Name – and where does the Process start and then end – before it feeds a downstream Process, or other downstream Processes?
  • How is it Measured – using and/or impacting which Business Metrics?
  • How is it Managed – monitored and troubleshot?

Learning Experiences for Loose-Loose Processes

IMX – in my experience – Loose-Loose can indicate that the Output and/or the Task-set can be quite varied – and is therefore Extremely Situational.

The ISD/LXD Practitioner will be challenged in pinning down this Jelly (meaning: Good Luck with that – as their situation is fraught with varied opinions that each can be right … depending … depending on the specifics of the situation).

The starting point of the Analysis effort – is still – of course – THE OUPUT – and then the Performance Context variations, the Stakeholder variations, the Stakeholder Requirement variations, the Task variations, the Role/Responsibility variations – and then there are the variations in Typical Gaps.

But as Loose-Loose is often for Processes that are Low Risk/Low Reward – leaving them to Informal Learning and/or Informal Social Learning might be a wise choice in where to strategically place your bets with the Shareholder’s Equity.

Back to: 1st Address Process Informality

IMX – in my experience – I’ve found myself working with teams of Master Performers in my Analysis efforts – crafting a Process for Instructional Purposes – where one did not formally exist – and by that backdoor mechanism – established A PROCESS.

Of course, I informed my Project Steering Team during the end-of-Analysis Gate Review Meeting – that we had done such – and unless they Stopped Us, or Redirected Us – that’s what we would center our Design effort around – which would happened post PST GRM.

Then and there they would have to make one of the many kinds of Business Decisions – and they would likely need to talk about it – the Pros and Cons – the Implications Elsewhere – etc. – and give me direction – in this part of my ISD/LXD Processes that I like to think of as:

Command & Control & Empowerment

This happens in all 3 levels of Instructional Systems Design in my PACT Processes for Performance-Based Instruction.

MCD is the focus of my last 3 books:

See all 17 of my books on my Amazon Authors Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B08JQC4C4V


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