Last month's column introduced the concept of instructional systems design (ISD) as part of an overall systems approach to training focused on efficiency, effectiveness, and maximizing the ROI.

This month's column concludes the ISD discussion.

Training Program Development

Training program development proceeds from the design "blueprint," which specifies training content and describes what the O&M staff is expected to learn. The development process focuses on developing or acquiring training materials, and includes a plan or strategy for conducting training that addresses such factors as instructional methods and media, learning activities, performance feedback, and the logistics of training - scheduling, resource availability, and costs. Training materials can take a variety of forms (training guides, visual aids, computer software, job performance aids, reference materials), as long as they support the following principles of effective instruction:

  • The information essential to job performance is conveyed.
  • The trainees are provided with opportunities to apply the facts, concepts, rules, and principles that they have learned.
  • The trainees are permitted to learn job tasks by performing them and are allowed to develop their skills through practice.
  • The trainees receive feedback on their performance.

Training Program Implementation

The implementation of a successful training program includes managing people and resources, adapting to system operating changes, monitoring the progress of training, and evaluating training.

However, the element most critical to the success of the program are the trainers. Good trainers can salvage a weak program, but weak trainers can sink a good program. A training program built on a thorough front-end analysis, sound design, and expert training program development will fail if the trainers do not possess the necessary knowledge, skills, and support.

Unfortunately, training is often a collateral duty assigned to someone on the basis of his expertise or seniority in the organization. He usually has no background as a trainer and receives little, if any, support in terms of training tools, equipment, facilities, or preparation time.

The training that takes place in such situations is commonly referred to as "shadow" training - those in need of training are attached to, or "shadow," the person who knows most about, or who has the most experience with, building systems and equipment. The flawed assumption supporting shadow training is that the trainee will eventually learn all that the trainer knows and can do.

However, what the trainee actually learns is only what the trainer has time to teach and is willing and able to impart. This method has great potential for passing on misinformation, bad habits, and poor attitudes.

A solid training program provides for the selection of trainers based on their interpersonal and training skills, as well as on their knowledge and expertise. It also includes provisions for training the trainers, evaluating their performance periodically, and supporting them by providing the necessary time and resources for training.

Training Program Evaluation

Evaluation is the linchpin of instructional systems design. It's the program's central, cohesive element ensuring, that it remains responsive to the needs of the O&M staff. Evaluation includes more than simply evaluating trainee performance.

Performance deficiencies are rarely, if ever, attributable to a trainee's inability to learn. Rather, it is a combination of factors, including: a supportive organizational culture, adequate resources, effective instructional systems design, and good trainers. A root cause analysis of performance deficiencies will usually point to weaknesses in the program, not to weaknesses in the trainees.


A one-time training event intended to meet the immediate and future training needs of the O&M staff is insufficient in the long run. The absence of an in-service training program will eventually manifest itself in higher operating costs, unreliable systems and equipment, unscheduled downtime, and ultimately in a building that no longer works efficiently.

However, the benefits of training won't be fully realized without implementing a systems approach to the design, development, and implementation of training that is responsive to changing needs and circumstances. ES