Magazine article Talent Development

Training in SPADES: Infuse Instructional Design Methods with Practical Project Management Principles

Magazine article Talent Development

Training in SPADES: Infuse Instructional Design Methods with Practical Project Management Principles

Article excerpt

I was fooling myself. I truly believed my training and development projects were successful. However, "successful" meant something different for me than it did for my sponsors. I missed a few deadlines or went over budget, but as long as I met my learning objectives I didn't concern myself. It wasn't working.

Later, I discovered project management concepts and slowly started weaving them into my daily work. I quickly found that while I still met my learning objectives, I also met my deadlines and budgets.

Instructional design processes

We all have our favorite instructional design methods. Most of us use ADDIE in some form or another. However, I pose that ADDIE, or any instructional system design (ISD) model by itself, is inherently incomplete.

As workplace learning professionals, we are expected to create more than just a learning experience. If we are focused only on our learners, we are shortsighted.

We must manage our training initiatives the same way our other business partners manage their initiatives. We must learn to incorporate more project management into our daily work.

Project management

Project management refers to the skill sets of managing a team of individuals and resources to create a specific deliverable. Projects have a defined start and end point. They have budgets, teams, and managers. Creating a specific learning solution and delivering it to an audience fits the definition of a project.

We all want a seat at the table, and to achieve that we must speak their language. We must talk in terms of timelines, budgets, and resources and not just learning objectives. We must achieve our learning objectives, but we also must complete projects on time and on budget.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) breaks down project management into five process groups and 10 knowledge areas.

The five process groups are initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Some may be larger or smaller, but each should always occur on every project. This ensures that projects are set up and planned correctly, managed along the way, and then completely closed.

PMI's 10 knowledge areas are integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communications, risk, procurement, and stakeholders. These areas are designed to categorize the various tasks typically performed during a project.

Not all projects warrant all of the knowledge areas. For example, if the project requires no procurement, there will be few or no tasks required, so that knowledge area may not be used.

Although we should incorporate more project management techniques into our daily work, we can't rely on project management techniques alone to create a successful learning solution. The use of SPADES blends together the concepts from ADDIE along with the best practices from project management to create a winning combination.

Putting project management into ISD

SPADES stands for start, plan, administer, develop, engage, and stop. Each of these stages incorporates tasks typically completed with ADDIE, but adds project management techniques to ensure everyone's needs are met.

Since every training solution is different, you may not need all of the various tasks in each stage. However, every project should go through each stage to some degree.


Lay the foundation of your project and complete critical tasks. One of the first steps is to get a clear understanding of who has a stake in your project's outcome. This will obviously include the training team and the learners, but think beyond the standard audience.

Does your boss have an interest? How about the learners' bosses? Do the learners interact with another customer or could this training initiative change something in how the learners interact with another group? Will your project use someone else's resources (for example, subject matter experts)? …

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