Have you ever been faced with multiple large-scale design projects that start and stop at different times, require reviews from stakeholders at specific intervals, and leave instructional designers with extreme ebbs and flows in their work? The collaborative approach to large-scale design projects is an innovative approach to time and people management, and could be the solution to the challenges you face.

The collaborative approach is all about defining roles, setting collaboration days and scheduling daily huddles. Through this approach, you will save time and foster collaboration amongst your team. This article outlines how to approach projects collaboratively, manage a team of designers, and set a framework for design outlines and punch-lists.

Organizations typically assign two or three projects to a designer since the ADDIE process provides “down time” while a project is under review. The idea is to design Project A and send it out for review. Then, while Project A is in review, design Project B and send it out for review. Project A comes back while Project B is in review and the designer develops Project A and then sends it back out for review, and so on from there. It’s all supposed to align perfectly to meet deadlines set at the beginning of the project. We all know this is not reality. In most cases, projects get off track quickly and that perfect timeline is not so perfect anymore, resulting in wasted time and late deliverables.

So why not abandon the 1-to-1 approach and adopt a many-to-many approach? A many-to-many approach means multiple instructional designers work in a team environment, sharing resources and completing development on all projects, which increases efficiency and effectiveness. For example, if Projects A, B and C are ready for development, then five instructional designers on a team stop what they are currently working on, and begin to develop Project A, then B, then C. This is different than the typical approach in which one designer is developing one project at a time. Instead, in this example, five designers are developing three projects together. This approach reduces the amount of project time by several months and fosters creative solutions.

Here are some tips to follow.

Assign lead designers for each project.

The ADDIE model is the process traditionally used by instructional designers and training developers that follows five phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. When moving away from the traditional 1-to-1 approach of a design project, there is a risk that critical components of the design process would be missed. We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” This is true here. To follow the ADDIE principles, a lead designer is needed on each project. The lead designer is ultimately responsible for the analysis, design, implementation, and evaluation portions of their project. The collaborative approach takes shape during the development portion.

Create a punch-list of deliverables for each project.

With a many-to-many approach, it is important to clearly define the deliverables and timelines to the team. This is when a punch-list comes in handy. All the elements that make up the project will be outlined by the lead designer. In the design phase, the lead designer provides a detailed design outline, including the location of source files, which will be used as the punch-list for all the other designers during the development phase. For instance, if an instructor-led course is being developed, the lead designer’s outline/punch-list will have line items for an ice breaker, a section of training, an activity for that training, a quiz, a role-play, etc.

Establish collaboration days and huddles.

When several projects enter the development phase, the magic of the collaborative approach comes to life. Collaboration days accomplish all the development of multiple projects at one time. For example, a team can dedicate a Monday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., leaving the additional two hours per day and Friday open for designers to work on other projects. Each collaboration day begins with a 15-minute huddle. The lead designers for each project provide pertinent information, share templates and style guides and answer any questions. Then the non-lead designers assign themselves to line items on the punch-list and get to work developing them. Once an item is complete, they move on to another. The lead designer answers questions and works on punch-list items, or takes care of final details (like formatting). Once one project’s punch-list is complete, the team moves on to the next project. When the team reaches the last collaboration day, all the projects have been developed and the lead designers implement their projects.

What are the results? It all comes down to cost savings, quality improvement and a strengthened work environment. By taking a collaborative approach, instructional design teams save time (which saves the business money), stakeholders receive quality results, and teams foster stronger innovation and engagement. To break this down even further, let’s dive into each.

Saving Time

The industry provides extensive time-tracking research regarding how long it takes to complete the steps within the ADDIE process. Typically, most project time falls in the development space which is up to 60 percent. So, if one designer is producing an instructor-led course, it may take a total of 350 hours and up to seven months to complete, due to stakeholder reviews. However, if a team uses the collaborative approach by assigning 10 members to punch-list items for four days, the amount of time in development reduces from 210 hours in five months (60 percent of the total time) to 210 hours in one week.

Stronger Results on After-Project Survey Scores

Evaluation is an important step in any project. One way to gauge success is to survey all stakeholders involved in each project, asking them to rate the project in three main categories: timeliness, quality and communication. The collaborative approach reduces the overall time for a project. Also, because there is a lead designer overseeing the work of others, the quality reviews can be performed along the way, ensuring continuity and precision.

Fosters Innovation and Engagement

When each designer is responsible for their own project, silos can form. Innovative approaches to design challenges are best achieved when multiple designers can work on a solution. This collaborative approach brings designers together to share ideas and learn from each other. Through this approach, teams continually share and learn together, building on each other’s ideas, resulting in a library of learning activities, graphic organizers, ice breakers, transitions, and more.

The collaborative approach is one way to address challenges that organizations face when handling multiple large-scale design projects. By clearly defining roles, setting collaboration days, using punch-lists and scheduling daily huddles, you will notice savings, improvements and innovation.