The Wonderful world of Needs Assessment!

This week, I’m going to thrill you all with talking about the wonderful world of Needs Assessment. It’s one of those things that we know is necessary to ensure we are creating the right solution to satisfy a problem but yet it is a process that is often left out in the cold. Usually bullied to the back burner by its rivals Money and Time. The ironic thing is that most often organizations spend more money applying the wrong solution to a problem and even more time trying  multiple solutions due to the first one not working. I can’t tell you how many times I have suggested the necessity of conducting a needs analysis and of course the age old response is ” We don’t have time. We have to roll out training NOW.” Then once training is completed, I follow up with stakeholders and revisit how we decided to roll out evaluations and collect data to see if the training really solved the problem.  As I  press the send button I can imagine the director or executive reading my message, yawning, and kindly pressing delete.  So being that companies think it is just a tedious task that training and development departments use to deeem ourselves important or waste precious time, I wanted to explore what actually happens during a needs assessment. To help us explore this topic we are going to take one of my favorite airlines to demonstrate how to conduct an analysis and identify opportunities for training, so that you are comfortable doing the same in your own organization when making the case for training.

The Organization of Southwest Airlines

When conducting a needs assessment analysis, its important for you to know who the organization’s stakeholders are and which one these stakeholders you will have to make your allies for training and development.  I would identify  all levels of management, shareholders, and employees as stakeholders for Southwest. When trying to gain buy-in during the needs assessment stage, I would want to get buy-in from the highest level of management, the person who has access to the budget, and the person that employees may see as the leader who impacts them directly. It is imperative to get the buy-in from the managers, their attitude towards training activities sets the tone for employees regarding how important or valuable the activities are and where on their list of priorities the training activity should be. This is the first step to building employee support and possibly (but not always) enthusiasm for the training or training activities that may require employee participation during the needs assessment analysis (i.e. surveys, questionnaires, or focus groups). “The key factors for success are a positive attitude among peers, managers, and employees about participation in training activities…”(Noe, 2010, p.111) So roll up your sleeves, clear your calendar, and start meeting with all levels of management to gauge how they feel about training and development currently.


Organizational Analysis

There are three sets of activities that should be conducted when performing a needs assessment which include an organization, person, and task analysis. When conducting an organizational analysis, you are “identifying whether training supports the company’s strategic direction; whether managers, peers, and employees support training activities, and what training resources are available” (Noe; 2010; p. 110).  We are going to start this needs assessment by first conducting an organizational analysis. To get a feel for the organization’s goals we are going to start with the company’s mission statement.


To Their Customers

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.


To Their Employees

We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of Southwest Airlines. Above all, Employees will be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every Southwest Customer.


By looking at the mission statement, I am able to tell that Southwest holds the following values in high regard:

  • External and Internal Customer Service
  • Employees Growth
  • Stable Work Environment

So now comes the fun part! You now have to analyze to see if these items are really taking place and what types of training is currently happening to support these values. If there are any gaps you have now identified training opportunities.  You can collect data by sending out questionnaires, surveys, hold interviews , or focus groups. The importance is to look at all levels within the organization. You are sure to find some gaps in perceptions so just taping one targeted audience for data will give you narrow perspective on the big picture.


Person Anaylsis

This where you ,”identify  employees who need training, that is, whether employees’ current performance or expected performance indicates a need for training.” ( Noe 2010, p.113)

You can use the information that you received from the organization analysis to identify if there is a particular targeted audience who you should focus on when it comes to suggested training. Once you have selected the targeted audience, look to see if specific  individuals have any skill or performance gaps. Remember your alliances at this point will be management. If I were a training professional for Southwest, I would see if there are any gaps as an organization that hinder them from meeting their goals that are mentioned in their mission statement. So let’s say I gather information that states that due to customer service surveys, we are not meeting our goal of providing quality customer service, I would then see which groups are not meeting their metrics. If it’s the baggage handlers, I would then go to that group and sit with management to discuss if they have noticed any particular issues. Being that I have built an alliance, I would then ask if I could look at the specific individuals performance reviews, sit with the specific individual and gather feedback as well. Getting different perspectives will allow me to identify whether or not training is necessary for the person during the analysis.


Task Analysis

Once you have completed a person analysis you then want to look at the set of activities an individual has to complete to perform their job. While analyzing the individuals I would also look at their job and what tasks are assigned to them to evaluate if there is anything in the process that hinders them from performing at the expected levels.


Once you have gathered all of your information, you are able to report back to the stakeholders your case for the need for training, in which  areas, the business implications if not implemented, the targeted audience, and vendors selected for training if necessary.


You will now be armed with enough information that will seem substantial to your stakeholders. Now look at that, the very process that seems so tedious to others outside of training has the ability to give those same individuals a different perspective on training where they can appreciate the efforts and the results!

Noe, Raymond A. ;2010;Employee traiing and Development; 5th ed


The Truth About Training

If you were given the opportunity to provide a 90 second elevator speech to convert a non-believer into a loyal advocate for your training and development department, what would you say? How would you be able to convince this person in such a short time?

If you are a training professional who has been in the field , you may have already experienced this scenario. When ever organizations go through cost saving initiatives, training seems to be dispensable and training leaders find themselves in a position where they have to prove the value of training to the organization.  Start thinking about how your departments add value to the organization and become the training champion in your organization.

The Background

Let’s set the stage. We have a manager of training and development standing in an elevator with a VP of Operations who has a business unit that could really use the help of training and development. But the VP of Ops thinks that the training department is only really good for conducting orientation and customer service training.  The manager of training and development decides to take this short amount of time to educate the VP of Ops on the “Truth About Training”.

The Speech

Hi Bill,

I thought I saw in a recent email that you were working on two really big initiatives within your division. If there is anyway you may want to leverage my training and development department, please feel free to let me know. In case you aren’t quite sure how my department may be able to assist I would love to share a few key points. First, “strategic training and development initiatives are learning related actions that a company should take to help it achieve its business strategy” ( Noe, 2010, p.62). We would be able to coordinate/ design/create learning events with objectives that are in alignment with your business goals. I’m sure just as with any new initiative there are aspirational goals you have created. It takes people, your people, to get you there. Ask your self does everyone on your team have the skills, knowledge, and competencies to get there? Does everyone understand their role and the expectations with the changes that have occurred. If you can answer no to any of these questions, let’s grab lunch, my treat and we can discuss further how to leverage my department to support your division and get you the results you are looking for with this new initiative.

 Audio Version

elevator speech blog

Scope Creep

The last few blog posts have been around instructional design project management. My last post around IDPM will be focused on scope creep. The project team’s or client’s efforts to improve the end product of the project.

As instructional designers who have either lead a project or participated on a project, I’m sure you have all encountered scope creep sometime during your journey in training and development. Today, I will share my experience in this phenomenon in hopes that my experiences can help those who will have projects impacted by this common occurence in project management.

Just a Little Bit of History

In working for a previous employer, there was an identified need for the employees to optimize their customer service skills. I was asked to create the leaders version of the training and a grant would cover the design of our individual contributors.  As the project approached kickoff, a meeting was held and it was decided that this project should be more than just training. The executives decided that there should a culture change and the training should support it. So now, let’s welcome the scope creep. The stake holders wanted to improve the ending result of the project. They wanted the results to be long-lasting and thought instituting a campaign around this initiative would be the answer.

The Impact

What did this all mean? How would this impact the project? Well, now that this is a campaign there was more than just training involved. We had to join forces with the communications department, have buttons made to support the campaign, figure out how to roll out different activities to support the training. The laundry list began to grow and with all of the additional items being added, the true goals of the project began to be lost.   Our original goal was to provide employees with the tools to better communicate with our customers and enable them to provide exceptional service.

If I Had a Magic Wand

If I had a magic wand and could lead the project, I would have stopped the campaign turned propaganda immediately. The real barrier was that employee morale was at an all time low, employee relations were stressed, and trust between management and staff were barely in existence. Creating a training program and a support system to ensure skills and concepts learned in the classroom would be practiced and supported once participants returned to the workplace was already a great challenge. Creating a campaign around it gave it a cheesy feel that I knew would not be received well by the staff.( A message extremely hard to sell to a room full of executives who choose to believe that none of the items mentioned above were happening).

Overall, non-value added activities that at the moment seem like a great idea should be assessed to ensure that scope creep does not occur.

Resources for Budget Forecasting

Hello Fellow ID Project Managers,

One of the most important parts of project management is knowing how to accurately forecast budgets, resources, and time. I have decided to share two resources that I have found quite helpful.

The tech republic provides a breakdown describing different costs that impact a projects budget. If you need assistance assessing what may constitute as an external or internal cost, labor or non labor cost, feel free to read this website to gain more insight.



Next , I suggest a working template. This template provides workbooks and guidelines to help make decisions when forcasting your project’s budget.



As you complete your journey in forecasting budgets for your projects, I hope you find these resources helpful!!!

Communication and the Project Team

This week our class was given the task of going through a simulation where we received a message from a project team member via email, voice mail and face-to-face.

The message included a request from a team member for information from “me”. In the simulation, it seems that I am holding her up from being able to meet her deadlines being that her work is dependent upon the completion tasks on my end.

In the email , I could see how the message has the potential of being misconstrued and may even cause barriers within the team. With written communication two factors are missing that greatly impact effective communication, tone and body language ( non verbal communication). Without tone I was not able to identify whether the team member was upset or just merely relaying a FYI.

The second mode of communication was a voicemail message. This mode of communication was better than the email.The voicemail was the same message verbatim but I was able to depict from the sound of the team members voice that she was not upset. She was forthright by sharing that she needed me to complete my tasks to help her meet her deaedlines. Her message was sincere and I could understand the urgency in the need for me to complete my tasks. Being able to hear a person’s tone is important it helps the receiver of the message know how the person feels when they are relaying a message.

In the last message the simulation showed a video of the person relaying the message. This by far was the best form of communication. I was able to see the body language and facial expressions of the team member.

In regards to working with a project team, you may find there are instances when written correspondence and phone calls are useful but as a project manager make use of productive face time with the members of your team! It is the most effective mode of communication and will be of value when rallying your team!

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Project Post Mortem

I’m currently taking a class where we explore the world of Instructional Design Project Management. For this week’s assignment, I was given the task of recalling when I worked on a project and assessing it in “post mortem”. For those of you who are new to the world of project management, post mortem is the review process where a project manager has the opportunity to assess what went well and what didn’t. Michael Greer shares,”It’s important for project managers and team members to take stock at the end of a project and develop a list of lessons learned so that they don’t repeat their mistakes in the next project “(Greer 2009). For this particular post, I am going to share my experience working on a project that involved a  learnig management system implementation. 

Project Plan

 During the project plan stage, there was a plan to roll out an enterprise wide learning management system in three phases. Overall, the plan was conservative and the deliverables were realistic. Nonetheless, there were some obstacles during the project that were quite frustrating.

1. The organization where I consulted had a policy that required an RFP to be conducted after the contract was signed. Due to this policy, the project team found that there were some modules of the system that did not fit the business model of the organization. As a result, a large amount of time was spent on identifying issues and creating work around solutions. The lesson learned, perform a RFP prior to signing a contract to ensure the software meets the business need of the organization.

Overall it was  gratifying to get the inital divisions onto the system and exicted about using it. Initially, the divisions were resistnt due to the communications that have announced the roll out of the learning management system for five years so this project raised concerns and doubt that this implementation was going to actually happen.


 The project team was relatively small but each person had a clear understanding on their role in the project. The project manager outlined a clear project plan and ensured that all deliverables were timely.


To ensure that implementation would run smoothly, my job was to create a test environment to simulate what the targeted impacted group would experience as end-users.  From the test, we were able to identify issues and find solutions with the vendor, or create the best alternate work around solution.

The feedback we received from stake holders and project drivers was of high quality. Everyone involved was comfortbale with giving feedback to ensure all concerns were addressed and all successes were celebrated as milestones.

So as you all decide to go and work on your projects. Take the time to review with your project team what went well adn what did not to ensure you do not repeat mistakes.


Greer, Michael; September 14, 2009;  Project “Post Mortem” Review Questions;  retrieved on 9/15/2011 from

Project Management and Instructional Design

Hello Fellow Instructional Designers,

We are off on another journey!  We are now going to explore the parallel worlds of project management and instructional design. I currently work in an organization where training and development is not under Human Resources but under a department called Business Support Services. Why is this a wonderful thing? Well, this department has 2 PROJECT MANAGERS!!!! I am currently working on a Lean Six Sigma Project as the instructional designer to support the project so this journey in learning how I can better support our PM’s as well as wear the fabulous hat of PM as well will be interesting and valuable.


Let’s learn together! Keep your eyes open for posts regarding this new experience!