Sticking to timelines is hard and making deadlines is even harder. But with a bit of careful planning, there are ways to overcome them.
Unless your client or subject matter expert (SME) is set on not meeting timelines, these strategies will help you meet them.
Creating good instructional materials can be difficult and time-consuming. If you’re an instructional designer, chances are you’ve been in a situation where the timeline has been tight and the project seems daunting.
Or maybe you’re just having a hard time keeping track of all the moving pieces of a project. And then you have to efficiently create quality materials within the constraints of timelines. If not managed correctly, timelines can ruin a project.
There is hope, however!
With the right strategies, you can overcome timeline hurdles. These strategies for staying on top of your instruction design project will help you stay on track and complete the project on time. You’ll learn about the importance of effective project management, how to plan and get organized, and what to do when things go wrong.
By the end of this post, you’ll have some strategies (hopefully new) to overcome your instructional design timeline hurdles. So read on to work magic on your projects and get them done on time!
What Hurdles Might You Run Into?
Instructional design (ID) projects require careful planning and an understanding of the timeline of events that need to occur for the project to be completed successfully.
Even with the most meticulously planned timeline, things can and will go wrong. Unfortunately, it’s not always in your control.
Numerous hurdles need to be addressed throughout a project. We’ll cover some common hurdles and provide 7 tips to help you overcome them.
Not having a timeline is going to be a hurdle if you don’t have one. This one is entirely in your control, though which is the good part.
If you know when and where you’re going then you can better plan the path to get there including a timeframe for each step.
No Project Vision
If you don’t have an agreed-upon vision for the project with your business partners then it will likely fail. When you’re working with others, everybody has to know what the solution is and make sure it’s solving the right problem. Ideally, every project should be performance-oriented and be based on performance objectives rather than learning objectives.
Lack Of Resources
If you don’t have enough resources for the project (people power!) then that’s a big hurdle for your timeline. While more resources can’t always overcome timeline hurdles, it sure can’t hurt!
This includes budgeting for materials and people, as well as ensuring that everyone involved in the project has the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to do the work. It’s also important to monitor resources throughout the project and make adjustments as needed.
Setting realistic (and necessary) expectations is important from the beginning. Without realistic expectations set, you may be working for something impossible to meet within your current timeline.
You have to manage project risks much the same as any other project. There are always potential risks that should be documented and addressed when possible.
This includes anticipating and preparing for potential roadblocks, understanding the impact of delays, and proactively addressing any problems that may arise.
For the custom software training we design, one of the biggest risks we experience is software not being ready in time. Either that or no training environment is available to capture screenshots and walk through the system.
Another risk we see a lot is a busy subject matter expert (SME) who doesn’t have time to review content in a reasonable timeframe.
Not Seeing Hurdles Early
If you don’t regularly evaluate your project and its progress, that could be a huge hurdle. Of course, you could wing it and hope for the best but that’s rarely a good strategy.
You should regularly review the project’s timeline to ensure it’s still on track. It’s also important to regularly assess the performance of the project to ensure it’s meeting expectations.
Lack Of Adaptation
If any issues arise or changes need to be made, not being flexible and adapting to the project could be a major hurdle. It’s important to communicate any changes to all project members and stakeholders.
How You Can Overcome These Timeline Hurdles
Every project has hurdles and some of them will be out of your control. But not all of them will be out of your control!
You saw seven common hurdles to keeping a training program moving on a good timeline. But, your project doesn’t have to fail to these hurdles. With these strategies, you can ensure that your project has a better chance of succeeding.
Let’s dig into the hurdles from above and how you can avoid them or at least help overcome them if you do experience them.
Create A Timeline
Always take the time to plan out your entire instructional design timeline. Look at the entire project objectively, including the complexity of the objectives, the available resources, and the desired outcome.
What is the best way to break down the timeline into manageable chunks? This will give you a better understanding of the timeline and how to overcome any hurdles that could arise during the process.
Make sure your timeline also documents who does what and by when. Otherwise, you have people wondering why the project isn’t moving when they’re the ones holding it up.
There’s nothing better than having a plan for your project. Whether you call it a training plan, requirements document, or whatever it’s all the same thing.
Make sure you document your project with requirements, goals, and everything that’s expected of everyone. This could be one document that’s a few pages long and summarizes everything for the training.
It’s also good to document what’s out of scope. If you’re an instructional designer then you likely aren’t collecting course feedback. But who is? Somebody likely has to do it so make sure your client knows who is going to do it if you’re not.
Your documentation is the perfect place to make it clear exactly what you’re going to do. With everything well documented, you’ll know exactly how many resources to allocate.
If you need to create a curriculum of four courses and your timeline is two months, you may need to adjust how many people are working on the project. Then there’s the fact that you need the right people with the right skills for the project. A tight timeline with high requirements is no time to throw someone inexperienced into a stressful situation where they can’t learn to do a thorough and proper job.
You must communicate with stakeholders and other project members to ensure that everyone involved is aware of the timeline, resources, and other project parameters. It’s important to set reasonable deadlines and clearly explain the expectations for each step in the project timeline.
It’s not great if your client is expecting a virtual reality (VR) course and you show up with a job aid. While the job aid might be the best solution (and performance support is some of the best yet most forgotten types of training), it’s not great if your client is expecting something more.
You can’t always mitigate every risk. But, documenting common risks can make you more aware of how to avoid them. An understanding of the risks helps everyone avoid them if possible.
Having one SME is a recipe for disaster. It’s typically a major bottleneck because the SME’s primary job isn’t likely your training project. So, it’s sometimes important to have a backup reviewer who has the power to approve in place of the primary SME.
If you can’t have a backup, at least schedule a time when you meet with your SME. If necessary, go over the content on a call with them so their attention is dedicated to reviews. Sometimes that’s the only way to get it done.
If the risk is software not being ready, there’s not usually anything you can do about that. But, at least you can set the expectation that if the software is delayed X amount of time then the training will be delayed X amount of time.
Don’t just create your timeline and project documents, file them away, and forget about them. Keep them in a folder where you can access them easily or even review them at the start of every week.
If you keep tabs on your project then you can see hurdles early and adjust accordingly. If you aren’t able to get content reviewed in the time you agreed upon, adjust the timeline and make sure everyone you’re working with knows about adjustments.
Projects never go as planned. That’s the unfortunate truth for projects as well as life in general. No matter how well you plan, you’ll sometimes need to adapt to changing priorities and requirements.
As long as you documented initial requirements well, any change to that could be out of scope. That means either the budget or the timeline must budge if the project is changed on you.
Identifying More Potential Hurdles
While we pointed out some common hurdles, there is virtually no end to hurdles you may experience.
To overcome those hurdles, it’s important to identify them early on and develop a strategy to address the situation.
The first step in any strategy is to determine the key tasks that need to be completed. This will help set the stage for the expected timeline and tasks/milestones that must be met.
To create a solid foundation for overcoming timeline hurdles, the first place to start is with a solid timeline. It’s important to be realistic in the expectations and to account for any potential delays.
Another great way to identify hurdles in real time is to communicate regularly with stakeholders. Clear and consistent communication with stakeholders is essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
It’s often helpful to meet with your stakeholders on a regular cadence to include updates on timelines and any potential issues that have been identified. This keeps stakeholders updated and helps you get information and changes from their side as well.
By being proactive and planning, you can ensure that your project is completed on time and within budget. Or at least as close as possible.
More On A Strong Timeline
Because overcoming hurdles during the project starts with a strong timeline, I wanted to spend more time on it.
The timeline outlines the entire process from start to finish and allows you to stay organized and on track. It’s essential to make sure all tasks are properly laid out and accounted for, and that the timeline is realistic and achievable.
Defining a timeline should be done early on in the project before anything is developed. We do this in early project meetings once we’ve determined the best solution to help employees perform better (which sometimes isn’t training at all). In Our training design process, we don’t go very far without creating a timeline.
The timeline helps ensure that a project runs smoother than without a timeline. It won’t guarantee the project runs smoothly but most of the time it helps at least ensure all the necessary tasks are completed for the most part on time.
When creating a timeline, start by determining the deadline of the project and then work backward. Estimate the amount of time each task will take to complete. This helps to create a realistic timeline and make sure that you are accounting for any possible contingencies.
If you need to cut back on parts of the project or make more resources available, the timeline will help you make those decisions.
Creating a timeline for an instructional design project can be a complex task, but it’s essential to ensure that all of the tasks are completed on time. Hopefully, these tips will help you create a reasonable timeline that will help to keep your project on track.
Successful completion of a training project relies on creating training that’s effective as well as meets your client’s needs and expectations. Part of meeting expectations is staying within a reasonable timeline or at least communicating properly when you can’t.
Unexpected changes in resources and technology can throw a wrench in the works and throw your timeline into disarray. The tips in this article will ensure that timeline hurdles don’t derail your project.
Just be sure that you always stay flexible and use these tips to stay on track.
- Create a thorough timeline.
- Document expectations, goals, requirements, and more.
- Allocate resources to every step including who must perform what.
- Set proper expectations with stakeholders.
- Mitigate risks by planning for and documenting common or foreseen risks.
- Regularly evaluate the project progress, original timeline, and other documentation.
- Adapt to project changes but document those changes.
Equipped with these tips, your training projects should be a big success. While there shouldn’t be an expectation that everything will magically work smoothly, you’ll be able to adjust accordingly. These tips will help you prevent some issues and adjust to others.
As always, if you have corporate technical training projects planned, we’re here to help with expert instructional design resources specializing in custom technical training for company technology projects. Just schedule a free consultation so we can learn more about your project and goals. We’d love to help your employees navigate digital changes faster and better.