Kindred Spirits in Manufacturing Training

Corporate Training| Instructional Design Tips
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I spent last week with one of our manufacturing clients, and it struck me (yet again) that manufacturing and ISD are very well suited to each other. Both rely on a systematic approach to performance and production. I felt like I was among kindred spirits as we mapped curricula, flowcharted development processes, and designed a high-level strategy for meeting their business goals. Although this particular client group is relatively new to elearning, their background in manufacturing (including lean and six sigma) meant that they were already converts to the gospel of systems design and the idea that we would be collaborating together to design an instructional design system rather than a manufacturing training course.

This group faces the same challenge as many manufacturing environments—the experienced boomers on the floor are nearing retirement and management is concerned about capturing that experience before it walks out the door. One of the things that we worked out last week was the design of a process for capturing that knowledge. By the end of our visit, this is what the process ultimately looked like—please note that this is a sub-process specifically for content-gathering and not a replacement for your standard ISD processes.

  1. They begin by collecting any the existing materials used by experienced team members at more than 50 plants in North America. These materials may be videos, PowerPoint files, reference manuals, job aids, equipment specifications, etc.
  2. Working with a designated subject-matter expert, they engage that expert in reviewing and assembling the best of what’s currently available.
  3. They then create a PowerPoint prototype of the content—not the design—which includes all of the relevant content and existing assets.
  4. For the test, they bring together several subject-matter experts together at one of the plants. They assemble a test audience of both novices and veterans. We also have the instructional designers on site to capture all of the expertise and all of the stories that are not documented in the PowerPoints.
  5. We then do a comprehensive analysis of the content that has been gathered—identifying what exists, what needs to be updated, what schematics may be need to be located or created, what video needs to be shot or reshot, etc.
  6. Based on that analysis, the lead subject-matter expert helps us to fill in those content gaps as much as possible. We then know what media assets may still need to be created and begin a more typical design phase to produce the WBT modules associated with those topics.

It’s not rocket science, but it is the result of a thoughtful analysis of their particular context and the realization on the part of everyone on that the team that we need a systematic approach to tackling the problem.

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