In August I ran a poll of training professionals to find out which part of L&D was their favourite. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to find that delivery/facilitation came out top. Only 18% of those surveyed enjoyed design the most.
reflecting on conversations I've had over the years and with VIP members of the Training Designer's Club, here are five reasons why I think that might be...
Reason #1: It’s ill-defined
I can speak from experience when I say that many Stakeholders don’t know what they want in a training solution until they’ve seen what they DON’T want! It can be very disheartening to spend time researching and designing a learning event only to be told it’s not quite what they wanted and have large chunks of it dismissed.
That’s why it’s so important to spend time NOT just doing the analysis, but scoping out the solution.
It can be tempting (especially when deadlines are tight – and when AREN’T they?) to get stuck into crafting the solution based on what we understand and what we THINK has been agreed. But that’s often when we find out there was a fundamental misunderstanding, OR that there were other stakeholders to involve that we didn’t know about.
Working with stakeholders to agree a clear brief and then create a detailed outline BEFORE you start detailed design work is well worth the extra investment.
Reason #2: It takes too long
I have written about why this is the case (or why it FEELS like this is the case) before, so I won’t repeat it here. It doesn’t need to take a long time, BUT you do need to be realistic about what’s involved, be disciplined and manage the expectations of others. Three days design to one-day’s delivery is a good rule of thumb to use for live training.
Here’s the link to my previous blog and videos covering just this.
Reason #3: It feels unappreciated
People don’t see all the effort that goes into it and as such it’s often undervalued. Most people simply have no idea of what’s involved. They only see the finished result and vastly underestimate the effort that goes into it.
I use the analogy of building a house quite often... we see the plastered walls, the finished floors and fitted kitchen and the brickwork, and we judge the house based on that. No-one ever thinks about the planning permission, excavation, laying of drains or internal wiring because they are unseen in the final property. Yet the property simply wouldn't exist – let along work – without all of this.
So perhaps we have to be a little more transparent, and educate our colleagues and stakeholders so they know what’s gone on AND what those “Can you just…?” amendments mean in reality.
Reason #4: There’s little feedback
There are no evaluation forms for the designer (only the facilitator gets 10/10 and therefore takes all the credit). There’s no adrenaline rush associated with finishing the design like there is when you finish a workshop, because you’re never QUITE sure when it’s definitely finished. No happy faces to see. No handshakes and words of thanks.
Designers are people too! We like feedback. We like to know that our design has worked.
One consultancy I used to work with as an associate many years ago asked the facilitator to complete a feedback from too. Feedback that went back to the designers and administrators. It was carefully designed to encourage positive feedback as well as making suggestions for improvement.
It was lovely to see that the case study I ages creating worked brilliantly, or that the exercise I wasn’t sure about did work – even if the facilitator had to make minor tweaks.
If you’re not delivering yourself, make a point of asking the facilitator what worked well and what (if anything) they felt they had to change. This gives you the positive feedback AND helps you to continuously improve your design.
Reason #5: It’s difficult to get the time/headspace
It may feel like design is an annoying task that you need to fit in around your ‘real’ work. You may have a manager who judges your utilisation only on time spent delivering training/coaching. Maybe if you’re freelance you don’t charge for design, so you don’t see it as a legitimate activity.
In that case, you already have negative associations with design. Things feel less pleasurable when they feel like a chore, when we’d rather be doing something else and especially when it feels like it’s being rushed.
If I may be blunt, the only way to overcome this is to MAKE the time! You cannot squeeze design in around meetings, delivery and coaching. It deserves the same respect as everything else and if you don’t set aside and protect time to do it, you’ll never have the time.
Design is a legitimate and VITAL part of your work.
When I used to design for clients, I would block out time in my diary and look forward to being able to focus on creating something bespoke even more than I looked forward to delivery. Design time was MY time. A time to be (largely) non-contactable. A time to be creative.
Write down ten positive things that design is associated with.
Focus on those and maybe it will help you to set aside and protect the time that you need. That in turn will make design more enjoyable. It’s a virtuous circle.