By Cathy Moore
Happy action mapping users say that the model helps them create lively elearning. But would it fit into your design workflow?
Action mapping makes stakeholders work together to analyze the performance problem, commit to the same measurable goal, and agree to focus on activities rather than information. This can be a big change to the typical course development workflow.
Without action mapping
- The client says, "I need a course."
- You say, "Okay."
- The client gives you a pile of content, the phone number of a subject matter expert (SME), and a deadline.
- You create a detailed storyboard or script, getting information as necessary from the SME. The structure of the information determines the structure of the course.
- The client and SME approve the script and you go into production.
- The course is made available and your job is done.
Using action mapping
- The client says, "I need a course."
- You say, "Great. Let's get together to make sure we all understand what you want to accomplish."
- You schedule a two-hour meeting in a space with a whiteboard or in a virtual meeting room where you can share a mind-mapping screen. You include the client, at least one subject matter expert, and possibly others from the table below.
- In that meeting, you identify your business goal and how you'll measure success. You also identify the behaviors needed to reach that goal.
- As a group, you analyze why the behaviors aren't happening, confirm that training will actually solve the problem, and identify how the training will be supported by managers, workplace changes, and other improvements.
- After the meeting, you brainstorm practice activities for each behavior needed to reach the goal.
- You work with the SME and possibly others to identify the minimum information necessary to complete each activity and decide how it should be provided.
- You create a prototype activity and test it on stakeholders and learners.
- Once the prototype is approved, you write scripts for the remaining activities. You could work in batches, with the SME approving some activities while you write others.
- You deliver the activities in the best format for the learners. This often isn't a one-time course. For example, you could deliver activities individually, spaced over time.
- Once the material is being used by learners, you and the client begin measuring its impact, and you revise it as necessary.
The above list makes it look like action mapping takes longer, and it will take longer if you're not doing much analysis now. However, the rest of the process can actually go more quickly than conventional course design. You save time by:
- Not creating a course when it isn't necessary or won't help
- Addressing only the specific behaviors that need to change
- Excluding unnecessary information
- Taking advantage of easily updated job aids
- Designing activities that test multiple areas of knowledge at once
- Creating tightly focused materials that don't waste learners' time
The Partner from the Start toolkit walks you through steps 1-5, helping you steer projects in the right direction from the start.
Who should be included?
The table below lists the four steps of action mapping and identifies who you might consider including at each step. The first two steps can often be covered in one two-hour meeting, if the client and SME are familiar with the learners and the performance problem.
The SME needs to be someone who currently does the job. They shouldn't be just an expert in the content. They need to be a current performer, so they can help you understand the real-world barriers people face.
If you're required to use a SME who is only an expert in the content, include a learner or two in your analysis. They'll help you understand the challenges they face on the job.
One of the goals in action mapping is to identify what information needs to be memorized (put in the course) and what can be referenced on the job (put in job aids). Often, existing job aids are created and "owned" by someone in a different department. They need to be included in some of your planning to make sure the job aid can be used as you want, to approve any changes to it, and to offer their ideas about incorporating it into practice activities.
| Job aid
|1: Set goal
|2: Identify behaviors & why they're not happening
|3: Brainstorm practice activities
|Help brainstorm or at least approve prototypes
|Help brainstorm or at least approve use of job aid
|Provide ideas, feedback on prototypes
|Help create prototypes
|4: Identify necessary info
|Approve use of job aid or changes to it
|Maybe, as tester