The question we're tackling in this series is how can we speed up the design/development process? To begin answering this question, I'll start with a strategy that has worked well for most projects.
Break it down.
If the project scope seems too vast or broad, or impossible given the time constraints, work with your team to break it into phases.
Your company provides cellular services and is launching a new product in the third quarter. It's now the end of the first quarter. All employees must be trained to support this product, such as Sales, Service, Billing, and Technical Support.
- The product is still in beta mode
- Marketing still has not completed its product packaging for customer-facing materials (e.g., product name and key features and benefits)
- List your target audiences. Generate a list of each group that needs to be trained.
- List what each target needs to know about the product. To generate this list quickly, look back at previous product launches (or similar learning solutions as your case may be) and see what topics each audience needed in the past. I call this a Core Competency list.
- Sort the list first by topic, and secondarily by target audience. Now you can see which target audiences need to know the same things. Your overwhelming task has has gotten smaller because you'll be able to deliver the same content to multiple target audiences!
- Schedule your design/development tasks. Now look at your calendar and look at how much time you have to develop your learning solution. Select delivery strategies that seem realistic given the schedule. Also, is it absolutely essential to have every target audience trained on every topic on day one of project launch? Probably not. Focus on developing the content/competencies that 1) the most target audiences have in common, and 2) are highest on the need-to-know list. Work with your stakeholders to figure out the "must-haves," Negotiate a phased approach by identifying content that can be included in a later revision of the learning solution - strip down the current "phase" to the need-to-know-now info.
- Build communication pipelines and structured processes with your key Subject Matter Experts. Structured communication is the key to "breaking it down" when you're working with your SMEs. In this scenario, you might liaison with the supplier of the new product so that you are getting your info from the source. Ask them to provide you with each new development of the beta product, and also to give you continued updates as to when the product will be final. Work with them to establish standardized communication processes such as daily updates via a structured email, or a template that makes it easy for them to communicate changes and new info to you.
- Be proactive when working through challenges - have a plan! Do not let challenges lie dormant hoping they'll go away, because they won't! In this scenario, your goal should be to only use content that truly is final, but be warned: what is final today is never really final! That's why we have product versions! Break down the challenges by first identifying them, then working with your stakeholders, partners, and team members to agree on a plan that minimizes or overcomes the challenges. Set firm parameters that everyone agrees is a realistic solution to the challenge. In this scenario, you must agree on a final date and say, "What we have from you on x date is what we are going include in our materials. Further changes will go into our next revision." Reassure those who are providing you information that you will update the learning solution to keep up with product changes, and updated information will go in the next version. Learning solutions have versions, too!