Tired of ADDIE-Bashing

Training program design and development can be similar to programming…at least if this programmers tirade is somewhat accurate if exaggerated (which I have no reason to doubt). Warning: The language can be abrasive and inappropriate but if you get past that, the humor is undeniable. Example line “Not a single living person knows how everything in your five-year-old MacBook actually works.” Or, for a more wordy sample: “…there are more “standards” than there are things computers can actually do, and these standards are all variously improved and maligned by the personal preferences of the people coding them, so no collection of code has ever made it into the real world without doing a few dozen identical things a few dozen not even remotely similar ways.”
   If you don’t want to take the time to click the link, that is your call but you are missing out. My summary of the post is that programs are written with lots of people providing different inputs based on varying levels of expertise backed by varying levels of influence to address individualized views of the problem to be addressed, quite often based on what the team members know how to do vs what is actually needed. Training programs and projects can get that way too. Probably everything collaborative is like that. (I remember a quote from years ago I think by Andy Partridge, the lead singer of the band XTC…something to the effect of collaborating on writing music “is like a civilized knife fight.”)
   Which is why we use a group design method to define the end performance goals of the solution (e.g., training, support tool, process, etc.) and then evaluate the approach to be used, followed by a detailed description of the end solution. It takes time at the front end but it saves time later. If you can stick to it. 
   Do people still “suggest” content to be included or nifty technology that should be used after things have started…even if they were previously considered and rejected? Yes. Can they still end up getting them into the solution? Sometimes. Unfortunately, human performance goals, like programming, can be accomplished in more than one way. There is always more than one right answer but usually a solid design with business rationale (and political support) can help keep the team from drifting.
   Which is why, though ADDIE can be unpopular, it really is a much better way to build performance solutions than some of the “fire-fire again-fire again…did we hit anything?” methods that crop up now and then. (That is why many companies use a process that is very similar to ADDIE to design/develop products.)  So, why is ADDIE constantly derided as being “old school” and unhip, if not just ignored altogether? Why all the interest in rapid prototyping? 
   People want the rapid and that is a valid concern. Sure, some clients or customers can’t be bothered to define needs and requirements upfront. But it seems that many designers can’t get that step done quickly enough to get the project momentum moving (and get to the “real work” of development). Everybody suffers when analysis and design take too long.
   And prototypes are helpful too. They help those representing the customer or end user to see what they will be getting. The prototype is why architects will make model buildings for customers instead of only blueprints and drawings.  
   But both rapid development and prototypes can be incorporated in an ADDIE project. Those that want to discard ADDIE just don’t understand it. It makes sense to do what you need to do, to adapt to the requirements of those that are in charge. But let’s not have professionals advancing new models that embrace and increase rework, unnecessary iterations, andfrantic time-wasting? 
   Is it just a business strategy or do people really think nobody can understand anything so we should just try stuff until we hit on something everyone likes? Does anyone really think that is the best method or just that it is unavoidable? 
   It is not unavoidable. If you take the time to understand the performance and to design an effective solution upfront, you have the possibility to come up with smarter solutions. Once you start prototyping, you are locked in to continuously improving your first idea…which may not be your best idea. Stick with ADDIE, just do it right!

Leave a Reply