Friday, February 1, 2008

First shot at this month's Big Question

Tony Karrer has posted the Big Question for February: For a given project, how do you determine if, when, and how much instructional designer and instructional design are needed.

My first thought off the top of my head is that the answer is about expertise. The reason there are instructional designers is the same as the reason there are engineers: they have developed expertise at getting to outcomes.

Our expertise is the value we add. That value comes at a cost -- it isn't free. If the cost of the expertise (plus whatever other resources are needed) is less than the cost of the problem, and less than any other solution to the problem, then it's a good value and the ID gets hired. Otherwise the ID is a bad deal. We get into trouble when we "assume" that the ID is always the right answer. Organizations get into trouble when they "assume" that the SME is always the right answer. And by the way, whether the development is "rapid" (however you measure that) or not makes no difference. An ID can "do rapid development" -- it's not like being an ID requires being committed to "agonizingly slow development." An IDs rapid development product might (or might not) give better results than the product of a SME using the same tools. It all depends on expertise, and on the nature of the solution being required (see "good enough," media, and cost comments below).

A little more thought: There are questions a manager can ask that will start leading toward a defensible answer to The Big Question.

- Can you define "good enough" and is good enough sufficient? Nobody will get killed or injured, the company won't be exposed to some intolerable downside or consequence, the business mission and objectives will be supported? If so, can a SME give you "good enough" in an acceptable length of time -- a day, a week, a month?

- Does the desired outcome require media to support learning? Does your SME have the necessary skills? If not, and if the ID does have the skills, use the ID.

- Considering the loaded cost (salary + benefits) and the opportunity cost, is it cheaper to have an SME do this, or an ID? Use the one that will get you the results you need at the lowest (loaded + opportunity) cost.

- Are there "standard" (proven and effective) ways to teach the topic (e.g. speaking French well enough to travel to Paris, check into a hotel, order a meal, ask for and comprehend directions)? Does your SME know those paradigms?

- Is this a topic where there are no paradigms for teaching, but one for which there are strategies that have been researched? Does your SME know the research and how to apply it?

This isn't all that organized, but it's a start. The objective is to avoid spending $100 fixing a $0.02 problem. And you can spend that $100 on an SME, inappropriately tasked, just as quickly as you can spend it on an ID.

More later. Maybe. I need to go walk this 110 pound Labradoodle that is bumping my elbow and making it difficult to type.

1 comment:

Manish Mohan said...

"We get into trouble when we "assume" that the ID is always the right answer. Organizations get into trouble when they "assume" that the SME is always the right answer."

This resonates a lot with the situations I have seen.