Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rapid Performance Analysis

Rapid performance analysis, is there such a thing? In a discussion with a LinkedIn connection, the topic of a quicker way to complete an effective performance analysis came up. His company frowns on spending time up front completing an analysis and wants him to dive into course development to "Save Time." I understand the importance of producing a tangible instructional product quickly but I believe with a mindset like this you will spend more time creating solutions that are not effective or you end up wasting time doing re work after you come up with a great idea halfway through the project. After reading "Job Aids & Performance Support" by Allison Rosset, and "Analyzing Performance Problems" by Robert Mager and Peter Pipe, I am sold on the notion that a "course" is not always the answer and if a "course" is the answer it is crucial to conduct an analysis to produce an effective instructional product.

In the corporate world it is important to walk the fine line of producing a quality product and producing it quickly. So, how do we in the corporate training and development field balance conducting an effective performance analysis with the business need of producing it quickly? We hear so much about "Rapid Development" in the world of eLearning but we don't hear much about "Rapid Analysis." My favorite resource for helping work my way through a performance analysis quickly is Mager and Pipes "Quick Reference Checklist." I find the questions in the checklist help keep me focused on the important aspects of the analysis and make it easy to conduct an effective analysis quickly.

Below I listed out some of the key questions I ask myself when attempting to conduct an effective but rapid performance analysis. The questions I have listed out below is what I have boiled Mager and Pipes quick reference checklist down to after a few years of applying it in my instructional design work.
  1. What is the problem and is it worth pursuing? In many cases it may be more expensive or anti productive to address the problem then it would be to leave well enough alone. You always want to be sure that you are going to get a justifiable return on your investment.
  2. Is the performance problem a result of a skill deficiency, consequences, or the process? You would think this is such an obvious question to ask your self but all too often we assume that some kind of a course is the answer to the problem. I have found that in many situations that simplifying the process or providing consequences can have a much larger impact than any kind of instructional product. Is the workflow efficient? Is desired performance rewarding? Do they know when they are doing a good job? Are there any obstacles? Many of us are paid to turn out courses but you will prove greater value to the business by recommending the solution with the highest return on investment.
  3. If your answer to the above question is skill deficiency, then how often do they need to perform the task? Is it just something that they need to do every once in a while? If so, maybe a job aid would be more effective then a course. Sometimes all that is needed is a simple set of instructions that are accessible just in time. A simple job aid can sometimes produce better results at a fraction of the cost.
  4. Which solution yields the most value? By the time you answer the questions above you will have a good idea of what needs to be done to close the skill gap. At this point you need to decide which solution or blend of solutions is going to yield the most value to the organization. Not the solution with the most bells and whistles but the solution that is going to provide the most bang for the buck
Although not an exhaustive analysis I find the questions listed above get me off to a rapid start on instructional design projects. Please help me and my LinkedIn connection out by posting your rapid analysis tips in the comments section.

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