Learning & development people unite!

We, the downtrodden and ignored learning and development professionals of the world, hereby shake off the shackles of convention and obedience and proclaim the arrival of a new order! Read more.

Learning & development people unite!

Manifesto for training designers

By Cathy Moore

We, the downtrodden and ignored learning and development professionals of the world, hereby shake off the shackles of convention and obedience and proclaim the arrival of a new order, a new age of enlightenment in which we valiantly defend truth, honor, and our learners by… well, by not being such pushovers.

We refuse to pretend that training is always the answer. When a client says, “We need training,” we don’t say, “Sure! Would you like fries with that?” Instead, we start asking questions.

We require clients to set a measurable goal. We help each client identify exactly how the organization’s performance is suffering and how our project will measurably, observably, provably improve that performance, because we’re here to make a difference, not to put 97,000 PowerPoint slides online.

We rejoice in the power of needs assessment. Oh needs assessment, you faithful but tragically neglected guardian of time, money, and learners’ souls, we welcome you back into our profession and with eager minds ask you for each and every project, “What do people need to do?” and “Why aren’t they doing it?”

We advocate for the rights of the humble job aid, email, and PDF. If the problem is caused by a simple lack of information, we show the client how a nimble solution placed in the workflow can avoid the expense and tragedy of a 107-slide presentation pointlessly read aloud by a talking avatar whose lips really move.

We design activities, not information. When instruction is part of the solution, we don’t preach or present to learners. Instead, we let them practice what they need to do and draw conclusions from that experience like the grownups they are, and for that reason we rock scenarios.

We stand firm in our belief that learners have brains and should be allowed to use them. We fiercely protect our learners’ time, minds, and souls from clients’ whims, information dumps, patronizing narration, “learning styles,” office politics, “motivational” training, SMEs’ favorite details, locked navigation, “awareness,” feeble multiple-choice questions, “knowledge transfer,” “knowledge checks,” academic learning objectives, flying bullet points, and alien abductions.

We are legion! Here are just a few of our noble warriors, in no order whatsoever.

There are countless more brave warriors helping us rise up from oppression and cry, “Doormats? Never again!” Please let us know about your favorites in the comments.

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31 comments on “Learning & development people unite!

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  1. Wonderful post Cathy and thank you for calling it out. I love how you’ve linked it to other blog posts too. Too often we tend to follow exactly what our client requests without doing the full analysis. Looking forward to growing our legion!

  2. I’m sorry but I’m a little confused. When I think of clients they are usually L&D professionals. This reads to me like it’s elearning professionals making demands of L&D professionals e.g. We require clients to set a measurable goal. So…. who are the good guys?

  3. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing this one. It’s not easy to accomplish all of these but, psyched up by this manifesto, there’s not excuse for at least not trying,

  4. That was a delicious rant! My pet peeve is the “course-ocracy” where every initiative has to fit into a course because lots of money has been spent on people and technology to pump out courses and how else will you get your ROI measured? Unfortunately times when I have risen up, I have got my head chopped off 🙂

    1. I’ve had my head chopped off too – now that I’m a contractor I’m finding these ideals easier to stand by. Maybe because I have a take it or leave it, I’m the expert attitude? Contracting is the bomb.

      1. Yes, I love being an independent contractor! There are barriers to innovation in every organization but it helps to be an outsider to see 1. what is the problem 2. potentially innovative solutions.

  5. This is a great summary of every day life for an ID. I love it. Some jobs allow you to do your jobs and others fall into the problems you listed here. At least I know I’m not alone in facing these issues. I think I’ll share this with the team and post it in my cube. Thanks!

  6. Yes! Instead of talking at participants, plunge them into creating the needed on-the-job results with guided simulations/learning games (online, onsite, on video, wherever).

    I’d add to design – turn performance/learning objectives into a job guide that
    1) focuses the instructional design on what people need to learn to do/say/decide rather than on lists of topics
    2) streamlines instructional time because participants learn when/how to use the job guide (print, online, on pocket card, whatever works) that contains the details they will forget anyway,
    3) frees the workshop leader to move quickly to practice activities because participants can use the job guide (flowchart, matrix, diagram, tabbed manual, checklist, questionnaire, whatever) diagram
    4) serves as a reminder after the course and as a focus for any post-course on-the-job reinforcement activities by performance developers/trainers or line managers.


  7. Cathy, I’m starting to like your posts more and more! I’m pretty new to formal instructional design and find you to be a wonderful resource, always easy to understand and to the point. You have truly made my learning process much easier – Thank you!

  8. I would add Ethan Edwards and Michael Allen to the list of eLearning noble warriers who refuse to accept mediocre eLearning! Make it memorable and meaningful! Great post, Cathy.

  9. This was just plain fun to read Cathy! …But with as serious intent. It’s liberating just to say out loud “we rejoice in the power of needs assessment”. We could add “We are relentless in our pursuit of improving performance.” Learning is a means to an end. We aspire to that end. Thanks for including me in your list of noble warriors. Back to the battle!

  10. Good stuff. Reminds me of the scene in Bullets Over Broadway when Cusack and his buddies share a drink and talk about how they’d preserve the only works of Shakespeare if given the choice between saving a person (plenty of them) if they were both in a house burning to the ground. 🙂

  11. Very good. I particularly like the point that training is not always the answer. But I would add to your list the idea that the L&D profession also acts as a skilled scanner of information, filtering it and providing the best of it to our learners. Training, instruction and job aids are not always the answer but at the same time we cannot leave our learners adrift in the sea of information that is the Internet.

  12. #8. We will bring Carl Binder’s or Thomas Gilbert’s Six Boxes diagram to every client meeting!

  13. An excellent summary of your wonderful blogs on learning, Cathy. I hope that doesn’t mean that you are going to stop the blog :-). Your thoughts on action mapping fitted like a glove into the evolution of our approach with clients in the Danish market, and I should thank you for that. So thanks for that AND for the Manifesto!

  14. Cathy, I’ve been preaching this for a decade. Up the revolution!

    Sometimes I want to get ahead of traditional needs assessment and get to work creating learning ecologies that will support future needs that people have yet to articulate. With today’s networks, we can build the pipes and supporting culture to incorporate all manner of learning interventions into the workflow.

    I do have one quibble: don’t call them learners. Only L&D people talk about learners. Real people are never so uni-dimensional. I call them workers or employees or corporate citizens.

  15. My favorite line: We let them…draw conclusions from that experience like the grownups they are. Amen, sister!

  16. Some people have asked about the relationship between this manifesto, published in June 2013, and the Serious Elearning Manifesto published in March 2014. I wasn’t involved in the writing of that manifesto, though I was happy to sign as a trustee. We all have the same goals, and the more people we have advocating for change, the better.

  17. Terrific peaceful outcry that resonates with every ID who truly cares about performance results and not just a happy feedback form filled by an unconscious “learner/click-Next-er”

    I’m a happy follower for your legit uproar!!