The Art, Science, and Business of Program Development

Article excerpt

IT'S NOT ENOUGH FOR TRAINING PROGRAMS TO BE INSTRUCTIONALLY SOUND. THEY MUST BE COMMERCIALLY VIABLE, TOO. HERE'S A KEY TO DEVELOPING BETTER PROGRAMS.

Training programs and products are among the most valuable and useful outputs of the HRD industry. They help define its identity.

Today, with training's high visibility, our industry's learning systems will be scrutinized harder than ever for their practicality and effectiveness. So it is in our best interests to monitor and improve the processes by which we develop and distribute programs--both custom-designed programs and generic, off-the-shelf training products--to our customers.

In our industry two aspects of program development compete for "air-time" and resources: design and development, and sales and marketing.

Failure to attend to both may actually threaten the prominence that training has won. If we want our programs and products to draw accolades for "working," they must be instructionally sound and commercially viable.

It's time for the two sides of our discipline to come together. Few instructional designers have the time, experience, and incentive to learn the process of product "commercializing." And few training marketers understand the intricacies and subtleties of "instructionalizing."

How can we collectively increase the effectiveness of the programs we design, develop, produce, and distribute? How can we help all the stakeholders understand all of the critical factors involved in producing and distributing programs that work?

An architecture proposed

One way to begin is to set up a taxonomy or classification of all the elements needed to produce viable, effective training programs or products. This involves viewing the program-development process in a more holistic, or systems, manner. With a systems approach, the overall effectiveness of the development process becomes a function of the combination of its parts. We view the elements as part of an overall architecture of program development, encompassing the practices of art, science, and business.

Such an architecture could be used by internal practitioners or external training suppliers, though each might emphasize different aspects, depending on the requirements of their businesses.

This integrated model calls for internal practitioners to think and act more like external marketers, whose jobs depend on the commercial success of the programs they produce and distribute. These days, internal training departments must be able to market products inside their organizations in order to justify their own existence.

The model also calls for external training suppliers to think and act more like their internal counterparts--the people who are held responsible for improving performance over the long term.

The primary goal of the architecture is to help professionals involved in designing, developing, producing, and distributing training programs to understand and improve the program-development process.

What are the practices of art, science, and business as applied to program development?

* Art refers to a specific skill, or a set of skills, that requires the use of intuitive faculties. These skills cannot be learned solely from studying them.

* Science means any knowledge, activity, discipline, or study broadly accepted as having a demonstrable, objective, factual, systematic, or methodological basis.

* Business refers to any form of commercial policy, practice, or activity with the objective of manufacturing, distributing, or exchanging commodities or services for financial gain.

The main premise of the proposed architecture is that the program-development process is built from the practices of art, science, and business. The practices encompass nine disciplines (See figure 1). Each discipline requires some art, some science, and some business. In addition, each discipline calls for a set of core capabilities, which also draw on the practices of art, science, and business. …