As a learning designer, there are times when you are given an order for a training solution. It can be dangerous to rush in and accept the order as the correct one before identifying the real causes and needs.

The instructional systems development (ISD) model ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation) is a proven design framework used across the globe. It takes a systems approach to learning design, so every variable is considered with the learner at the center. The first step is analysis, which can be described as a training needs assessment (TNA).

TNA can take various forms. You can collect data through interviews with individuals, focus groups, work observations and surveys. These methods have different advantages and disadvantages and can depend on time, budget and availability. For example, focus groups can take time, as you need to schedule them to bring the right people together, and you may end up running a series of groups to capture everyone. However, they do provide you with rich data and the opportunity to dive deeper with interactive discussions and follow-up afterward.

Gathering high-quality data may require using more than one method. With any of these methods, it is important to determine whom you will interview or observe and what you ask or observe them doing. Obtaining a valid sample of data from across the business will ensure you are not just hearing one voice.

It is key to evaluate throughout the TNA process. There will be trends and key observations along the way, as well as possible changes in the business, which may shape what you do next, so you need to be agile. Keep all of these data together using a system that makes it easy to analyze and view trends and return to it if needed. Know your audience; keep in mind that using a lot of complicated graphs and text may not be the right approach to summarize and present your results. You can always have all the data at hand if someone does require further detail.

You may discover a variety of needs in your TNA, some of which may not match the initial need and request, and that’s OK. Reporting your findings and analysis is as important as collecting data. Have open conversations with the people who made the initial order throughout the process so they feel they are consulted and informed.

It’s crucial to review the data with a critical eye and not rush to a solution. After all, you will have spent time and money collecting these data for a reason – to not be just an order taker! The data will not only provide you with a direction toward a solution but will also justify any actions that you are recommending, especially if you are presenting to budget holders or senior teams.

After the TNA, be ready to cancel the order! Training is not always the answer, or it may not be the answer at that point in time. It could be the organization needs to invest in new lighting above a machine so people can see what they are doing properly rather than training them on how to do it. In that case, your time and effort have not been wasted; your data and analysis can still be used to identify and implement the correct solution for the organization.

So, don’t be an order taker. There is nothing worse than getting the order wrong and paying for it!