Analysis is the first yet the most neglected phase of the ADDIE model. Although most ISD professionals recognize its value in the overall instructional design process, they almost always skip this step. As a result, their training courses often do not bring the desired results. The main reason for skipping the analysis phase is budget constraints as well as the fact that most stakeholders do not understand the real value behind needs analysis. As a result, they come to you with what they consider real training need without even realizing that training, in fact, may not be the solution.
So, why do we need to conduct needs analysis? The main reason is to determine if training is ultimately the solution to the problem, and if it is, then to find the best ways to approach and solve the problem. As we all know, training can only help if the performance problem lies in lack of knowledge or skills.
If, however, the problem is related to lack of motivation, resources, or anything else outside of knowledge and skills, then another performance improvement intervention is needed.
But, what happens if the stakeholder wants an eLearning course when the real problem is poor work climate? You develop the requested course, but it does not improve on the job performance. The stakeholder has wasted a lot of money for the unnecessary course, and you wasted your time and resources on the design and development of a useless course. Retrospectively, if a proper needs analysis had been conducted, a lot less money, time, and resources could have been wasted.
As an instructional designer, what can you do if you are approached with a request to create a course without conducting needs analysis? First and foremost, if there are time or monetary constraints, you do not have to do a formal analysis. Even sending out a small questionnaire to the client or conducting a quick chat over the phone may reveal the true performance issue. Briefly explaining to the stakeholder that training may not solve all performance issues and stating examples when other interventions may be needed may also help stakeholders understand the need for analysis.
Analysis is the first phase of the classic instructional design model for a reason; therefore, ISD specialists should not underestimate its value.
I’d be interested to hear if you conduct needs analysis. If so, what approach do you take?