Hi All,


You have probably heard how to eat an elephant ... one bite at a time.  My question focuses on what to do when the elephant gets bigger.


I have been assigned to design and deliver training curriculum for a global audience, for a business unit that does not currently have formalized training in place.  Facing shortening time constraints, increasing scope and de-centralized resources (best practices, procedures, SMEs, assistance from other trainers), I wonder if anyone has tips on how to quickly and effectively convert thought into a product. 


I'm currently in the needs assessment stage but the scope is large enough that needs assessments for specific topics will have to occur on a rolling basis while development takes place for other topics.  That way deliverables can be rolled out on a staggered basis.  Some relevant training materials exist from other areas of the organization, but most will need to be created from scratch.


Any tips for expediting the needs/planning stages without sacrificing quality and while juggling multiple instructional design streams for the same over-arching project?




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You’ve already identified the key issue here; scope creep.  As you rightly say, the killer issue is the fact that additional scope is being added across multiple workstreams without any sense of the potential impact.


Advanced apologies if you’re already doing this but from what you mention I see your issues as being more aligned to programme management rather than training per se. 


My suggestions therefore are to approach your situation as though it were a programme with multiple project workstreams.  By applying strong project management techniques – especially change management – you can begin to bring this under control and keep it that way.  I’d also suggest that you use risk logs to keep a picture of the likely affect of planned changes.


The change management approach I mention will allow you to clearly see the knock-on effect of any changes – perhaps a change in training course A can be handled without any impact on training course B.  Conversely, if training course A does impact on say the scheduling of training course B then this can be clearly shown and put in from of the “powers that be.”  Decisions will need to be made, but at least you would be showing the impact of proposed changes rather than suffering the consequences in silence.


Again, not wanting to tell you things you may already know, I’d highly recommend that you look at producing high-level project plans for each workstream and especially focus on all the critical path issues (availability of resources for example) as this will maintain a clear picture of just what is possible with the resources you have at your disposal.  Within these plans all milestones should be clearly visible so that you can chase (twist arms) as and when necessary.  Whilst there are loads of training development processes you can follow, if you organised your workstreams against the ADDIE model (for example) you’d very swiftly get the clarity you need especially regarding resource availability.


The use of programme management techniques won’t make the underlying task a whole lot easier; it will however give you ammunition and control which you’ll definitely need to keep your sanity!


I hope this provides some help and please come back to me if you need more detail on anything I’ve mentioned.


Good luck!



Hi Johnathan,


I suggest that you have a design-develop-iterate approach for your project. I think you are on the right path, you are doing needs assessment for some topics while actually developing some others at the same time. I guess you must already have a macro strategy in place, you must have already visualized how the end product should look like. Try and develop as my prototypes as possible and showcase them, so that both you and the client get a fair idea of what the end result will be.


I suggest that you don't spend much time on the planning stage, just go ahead and create some mini modules or topics, and iterate from there. Otherwise, you will end up spending too much time analyzing and planning topics, and will have less time left for development and any course correction, if required.


All the best!





I beg to differ with some of your advice but I would strongly recommend that Jonathan doesn’t just rush in and start iterating content.  I say this because in my (painful) experience a great deal of time can be wasted “fiddling about” rather than making real progress.


Having a high-level plan of all the courses, required outcomes and content will allow Jonathan to see all the inter-relationships he needs to manage and may indeed allow him to reduce the amount of content developed by identifying core and reusable elements.


As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."



Thanks to you both!

As an American I should have known that quote, but never heard it before! However, it is very appropriate. An old carpenters' expression also says, "Measure twice, cut once."

I am a subscriber to the ADDIE model and so do plan on utilizing that methodology. As suggested, this will have to be managed through multiple, weaving, and staggered work streams. There is also a definite resource constraint which I have decided not to accept as fact, but do my best to borrow muscle wherever I can to help fill gaps in gathering best practices, research, etc.... I think requesting additional resources will be enabled by documenting potential risk, a great suggestion.
Hi Jonathan,

Happy to be of help. Let me know if you need any project control or change management document templates and I'll happily send some through.

By all means, I am happy to expand my resources with your templates.  Thanks for reaching out.
Let me have your email address and we can sort this off-line.

More than happy to help.




I didn't mean that Johnathan should start development immediately. After spending the requisite amount of time on macro planning and strategy, he should develop prototypes.He will get a better idea of what the end product will look like, and get the chance to improvise, if he develops prototypes.


Spending too much time on planning alone may not be a good idea. In Agile methodology, we develop and iterate quickly, so that we can fail fast and make improvements, if required.


I am sure that Johnathan already has a macro strategy in place. He just needs to give it some shape soon, so that there is a tangible product for him to showcase, and not just plans and documentation.





If you need anything from what currently exists in other teams, please let me know.....I may not have all the answers, but I can point you in a direction to get some stuff....


Hi Jonathan,

My approach has been to break down the training program into bite size manageable chunks/modules which allow for market differences and repurposing within the markets by the SME's.  It makes it easy to farm out to your SMEs and trainers during the design process.    With this approach your training program is the same from beginning to end with all modular titles, aims and objective being the same .  You end up with some modules being core and the same for all markets and some modules being invidivually unique to a market as a process, procedure or compliance rules may be different for that market.  It also makes modifying and maintenance easier and can set up for potential e-learning opportunities too,

kind regards, Maurleen, Training Manager, American Express



Great advise has already been given, so I won't go there. One thing to remember when eating an elephant though, even one that's growing.


Sooner or later you'll have eaten the elephant.


Sounds obvious I know, but it's really all about the end.  Keep the end in mind. It's your goal. Remember to focus on it.  I tend to get lost in the detail, the ideas and the process so this is something that is very important to me.


Oh, and good luck!


Great thoughts.  Along the lines of your suggestions, now that (very) high level needs have been assessed, I have identified the top 3 modules and am investing the bulk of my time on those.  Each core module will be developed for baseline rollout, and supplementary/tailored region-specific material will be developed after the development of core modules 4 through 8 (with the exception of tailoring module 3 up front due to a defined overseas in-class training deliverable later this year).  While I develop modules 1-3, I am keeping an ear to the ground for needs assessments for modules 4-8 as naturally elements of all these paths will intertwine.

I have been fortunate to have half of a full time resource temporarily dedicated to rounding up and standardizing procedures (thank goodness...).

Also, I cannot say enough how much of an enabler it has been to simply print out my day, month, and long term goals out so I can see them in black and white each day.  Hard to build a skyscraper unless you can see the bricks you have to work with today and for the next month.

The combined wisdom here has been valuable.  Thank you all!  And if anybody else has anything to share, I'm still all ears! 




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