Applying Continuous Improvement Techniques to Instructional Design Technology (IDT) for Greater Organizational Effectiveness

Article excerpt


Organizations embracing the philosophy of continuous improvement require the use of every available avenue to perform consistently at higher levels. Annually, more organizations throughout the world utilize continuous improvement tools to become more effective and efficient in their production methods. Yet, year after year, companies spend billions of dollars on training programs, many of which fall short of their intended goals, creating both practical and legal issues for the business. With this in mind, this article looks at assimilating the models and methods from the discipline of instructional design and technology (IDT) with continuous improvement tools to improve the effectiveness of training for both individual and organizational development. Using IDT in this way enables the organization to better identify its learning needs. This blending of IDT and continuous improvement will produce a better, more effective educational program for the overall organization.


Organization development (OD) requires a total system approach, using a mixture of endeavors to improve organizational effectiveness (Cummings & Worley, 2005; Jeffery 2005). Often, training is one of these endeavors. Effective staff training and development improves the overall organization's effectiveness because training and development of individual employees enhances each individual's capacity to contribute to the development of the organization (Olaniyan, 2008). To this end, U.S. companies spent an estimated $52.8 billion in 2010 on training programs for employees with an estimated $1,202 being spent per learner ("2010 Training industry report," 2010).

Despite the significant training expenditures, by many accounts, training is often an abject failure with many organizations unable to establish a positive link between training and desired change (Bunch, 2007). Indeed, some studies have found that mandatory corporate training programs may actually have the opposite impact of their intended effect (Dobbin 2011; Georgenson 1982; Kalev 2006; Vedantam 2008). Poor training has been cited as the root of quality control issues, customer dissatisfaction, low morale, and poor teamwork ("Ineffective training" 1998).

As Bunch (2007) noted, "Along with wasting immeasurable time and billions of dollars, failed interventions promote costly litigation and growing cynicism about the worth of organizational change efforts and contribute to the persistent undervaluing of the training profession." Moreover, with more and more courts recognizing an employer's duty to train in a variety of contexts, it is more important than ever for training programs to be effective (Cash, 2001; Okon, 2011; Peace-Wickham, 2010).

So what can organizations do to reverse the trend and make training programs effective instruments of organizational development and change? The answer may lie in combining continuous improvement principles with models and methods from the discipline of instructional design and technology (IDT). Blending the methods of IDT and the system tools of continuous improvement will result in more effective and legally defensible training and educational programs to facilitate both individual employee development and development of the organization as a whole.

Continuous Improvement and the Tools of Six Sigma

Continuous improvement has been a driving force behind the most competitive businesses for several decades. Once thought to be simply a set of tools for improving production quality and efficiency, Six Sigma, an underlying operating philosophy of continuous improvement, has expanded to a variety of business functions, including human resource management. Jeffery (2005) and Kleason (2007) advocated the use of Six Sigma methods as a means of improving organization performance. The literature has numerous applications of using process improvement techniques. For example, Re Velie (2003) gave an example of using process maps in improving safety in the workplace; Jeffery and Bratton-Jeffery (2004) applied Quality Function Deployment in the integration of training models; Maes and Jeffery (2005) suggested applying behavioral science protocols to Six Sigma; Chow, Bowman, and Wittenberg (2007) used benchmarking as a method of assessing compliance in training practices in medical device manufacturing; Chow, Finney, and Woodford (2008) integrated Six Sigma tools in the performance of job analysis. …