Can clients be plugged into a mold? When does a one-size deliverable fit all? Of course, probably never.
In the world of adult curriculum development – and most media or communications development – clearly delineated, established processes are used by experienced teams to assure specified end results are achieved. The catch is that every client is so different that it is nearly impossible – or often simply not necessary – to apply every standard practice fully or strictly on all projects. Some key client variables may include:
You may have seen this cause endless frustrations on the part of clients as well as project teams. This is not to suggest eliminating proper and established development methodologies, but rather to assure that “thoughtful flexibility” is also a critical component of all projects. And as a variation of the quote attributed to Picasso “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” it is important to understand and be experienced with professional rules and standards before you deviate from them, to better serve the client, project, and audiences.
A general case in point. Every experienced instructional designer knows the fundamental ADDIE model. But suppose the client has neither the budget, time, or desire to do an up-front, formal needs or audience analysis. In their mind, such an effort will only validate what they already know. This is a common scenario that training (or communications) teams often try to talk clients out of. But the client could be right, at least partially. If the development team has worked with the client before, they may also already know the basics of what would come from the first “A” (Analysis) step of the ADDIE model, yet they often become stymied by this kind of scenario. In lieu of an extended analysis, confirming current expectations and needs with the client may provide enough foundation to begin program design.
And how many times has a final, formal evaluation step been eliminated, for the most part anyway, not to mention evaluating throughout a project to assure the client and developers remain in sync. Software developers often use an “Agile Methodology” that supports the continuous response to new information – to change – and generally to the inevitable uncertainties that may accompany project design, development, and implementation. Similarly, thoughtful flexibility should be an ongoing, mindful activity built into each project plan. At the very least, regular communications across the team are critical to ensure that needs that promptly met when they develop.
If a budget is not working, if the desired timetable is not practical, or if ideal design or development activities simply are not feasible, how can they be changed to still deliver an effective and client-acceptable product? And especially, what standard development procedures must be retained to assure key client and audience needs are met? Remain “thoughtfully flexible” to answer these questions