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Riding the Bicycle As You Build It


Fri Mar 22 2019

Riding the Bicycle As You Build It

When I started my career as an instructional designer, one of my first assignments was to build training to support an enterprise system rollout. My manager likened the process to “riding the bicycle as you build it.” It was a very apt description. Fast forward more than two decades and not much has changed. Over the years, though, I’ve learned a few techniques that can help you deal with the challenges of developing training for a moving target.

Cultivate Relationships

Life, in general, is all about relationships. In my experience, relationships are key to getting anything done, especially in the training world. Most importantly, you need to cultivate a good relationship with your manager. There needs to be a deep trust; without it, you’ll likely be spinning your wheels. If the relationship with your manager is not working despite your efforts, it’s time to get either another manager or a different job. It’s that important.


Next, work on building relationships with subject matter experts. Good SMEs are worth their weight in gold, so treat them well. In fact, find out what their favorite treats are, and keep a stash available just for them. Lastly, build relationships with your end users. Speak often to those who consume your products. Be sure to include a few squeaky wheels—their complaints and criticisms are gifts in disguise.

Construct a Prototype

Once I’ve spoken to enough team members and have ample input, I create a functional prototype. People often will talk in circles about their ideas, so a prototype can help provide focus and give momentum to a project. Whether it’s a paper prototype of a job aid or a mock-up of an e-learning module, build something quick and cheap and then iterate often. Building a functional prototype not only helps create a framework to build upon, it’s also useful to test ideas that work without spending too much time and money while you “build as you ride.”

Build a Brand

Managing perceptions is an important but tricky part of your job. In the early 1980s, Jan Carlson, president and CEO of Scandinavia Airlines, coined a phrase to describe a key part of customer-driven quality. He said, “Any time a customer comes into contact with a business, however remote, they have an opportunity to form an impression.” Defined as moments of truth, these touchpoints represent the key events during a customer’s journey when an opinion about that brand is formed.

With this in mind, you must make every interaction with your customers count. Be known for being passionate about learning, and be sure to always develop yourself and share knowledge. Take frequent pulse checks to see how your brand is perceived and seek opportunities to build upon it. Finally, work toward being known as the person who loves to help others. In other words, build the bike while having a fun ride.

Enjoy the journey!


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