Tips for meeting aggressive deadlines?

Hi, everyone: I was hoping those of you who have experience meeting extremely aggressive deadlines might help me flesh out ideas for a presentation I'm putting together. I'll call it something like, "Tips for dealing with impossible deadlines," and was thinking of structuring it in three parts: 1. setting expectations 2. developing content 3. building simple assessments.

Here are the topics I've got so far (feel free to chime in with your ideas and experience):

SETTING EXPECTATIONS:

  1. Meet with "client" and show them a section of course the likes of which (types of graphics, characters, etc.) you could build within the timeline. Have them accept the type of course that's possible. 
  2. Try to "get out of" the analyses often associated with a "real" course: task analysis, etc. 
  3. Remind yourself again and again, you are not building a "course." This will help relieve some of the elearning angst we place on themselves.

DEVELOPING CONTENT

1. (If possible) Have SMEs shoulder a good deal of the script writing responsibilities. Provide them guidance doc(s) on how to do this. 

2. Use built-in (Articulate) characters. Not only for typical character situations, but as technique to create an interesting structure for a slide.

3. Explore what (if any) company assets you might utilize (pre-existing templates, interactions, etc.)

4. Use simple shapes for expressing concepts and creating visual interest (a few tips on how to do this)

5. Have a tight structure to the course, with repeatable and thus predictable sections. In this way, the course will appear more "though out" than perhaps is the case.

BUILDING SIMPLE "ASSESSMENTS" 

1. Build a quick multiple response question called "What do you know about X" at the beginning of the course, and follow it up at the end with "What do you know NOW about X" at the end. (Basically, you are asking the same question twice, but the learners feel as if they've learned something in between. Got this technique from elearning pro Jennifer Bircher.)

2. Utilize the select many type question, which allows you to ask many T/F questions about a topic in just one question.

 

So..how did you meet an extremely aggressive timeline? I look forward to your advice and input. Thanks so much. --Daniel

 

 

8 Replies
Nicole Legault
Daniel Brigham

SETTING EXPECTATIONS:

  1. Meet with "client" and show them a section of course the likes of which (types of graphics, characters, etc.) you could build within the timeline. Have them accept the type of course that's possible. 
  2. Try to "get out of" the analyses often associated with a "real" course: task analysis, etc. 
  3. Remind yourself again and again, you are not building a "course." This will help relieve some of the elearning angst we place on themselves.

Hey Daniel ! Great topic! I've shared it on Twitter to help hopeflly generate a few more replies... I did have one question about the text above. In step 1 you have the client accept the type of course that's possible, but then in step 3 you say you are "not building a course". I'm a bit confused by that! Can you elaborate? :) Thanks!

Dan Brigham

Hi, Nicole: You're right: I should have used a more general word than "course" for point 1. Even better would've been to put it in quotes. Thanks for the response and the twitter push. We'll see where it goes. --Daniel

Daniel Brigham
E-learning development & voiceover narration
BrighamCommunications.com
720.884.6837

Bob S

For whatever it's worth....  in keeping with the particular topic, I might consider a less structured approach for your presentation. Instead of the well crafted categories you have come up with, perhaps just a collection of quick survival tips they can pick and choose from?

In any case, here are some situational survival tips I've found helpful....

1) Be ruthless about what's truly a "must have" for the course to be successful.
And make sure the stakeholders agree.... If we can only do X, Y and Z given the timeline, will that be a success in your mind?

2) Skip analysis and instead produce an assumptions document for approval.
Have the stakeholders agree that the course is predicated on the following assumptions. Base these assumptions off of their perceptions and your own understanding vs doing a complete analysis.

3) Do not design the look and feel from scratch.... period.
Resist the urge to customize in these situations. Go back through your own archive or find another template/theme and leverage that.

4) Use a single "detailed draft" approach to gain sign off.
Instead of full storyboarding and/or progressive versions, instead employ a single draft document before beginning development. Consider a Word doc (fast to work with) and go with a table format three columns; Topic, Details, Delivery Method.
*** Topic states simply what will be talked about in that silide/section,
***Details is a simple outline  of the talking points that will be covered (only if needed, exact verbiage can be added sparingly here as well).
***Delivery Method lists the interaction type if any. (ie Drag and Drop, Reading, etc)

5) Create the "must haves" first.
All too often we have our own way of starting design or development. Sometimes we focus on look and feel, sometimes we start with the transitions between topics, etc  On an impossible deadline you must start with the agreed upon must-haves knowing that you will not get everything done you would like to.

6) Remember that perfection is the enemy of efficiency.
Never more true than when facing an impossible deadline. Resist the natural urge to perfect things that so many of us in the field have. Force yourself to say "good enough for now" until all the of the must-haves are completed. Only then if you have time should you go back and make the extra little tweaks that take it from fine to perfect.

 

Dan Brigham

Bob: Thanks so much for the detailed reply. Your points four and six especially resonate with me. Regarding four, I'll often have a Microsoft doc that serves as a script, but I like your columns idea--a rough storyboard of sorts. Would you give a bit more detail about your "assumptions document"? Thanks again.

Bob S

Thanks, Dan.  The detailed draft (my name) was something I started using because so many stakeholders had different visions of what a "storyboard" was. Some wanted full pictures that gave insight into look and feel. All good, but time consuming of course. This detailed draft approach allows me to skip all that discussion, in essence focusing on function over form for time's sake.

For the assumptions document...

Working backwards, one can think of the kinds of outputs we gain from a full analysis phase. Things like current knowledge level of the audience, what they are struggling with most, barriers to behavior change, failed approaches from the past, etc.

The assumptions document would be the same sort of outputs (though highly simplified for time's sake!). But instead of being based on actual analysis, they are "assumed" to be true based on brief stakeholder input and your own experience/intuition. Listing the assumptions your training approach is predicated on does two things...

1) It's a safety measure for you and stakeholders so no one at the end can come back at the ID to fault the course rationale. (note: Make sure the document states that these assumptions take the place of actual analysis due to time constraints).

2) It's a chance for stakeholders to say "whoa.... maybe we need to slow this down and confirm this stuff".  In that case, you are back in a more traditional project timeline conversation and the impossible deadline situation is averted.