ADDIE vs. AGILE ISD: Why AGILE ISD is a Better Solution

Innovative Agile Solutions

Training development can be a moving target. Content changes occur frequently and quickly. Budgets are tight and, adding salt to the wound, training is highly scrutinized. Fortunately, developments in training methodologies, including “adapted” ADDIE and AGILE Instructional Systems Design (ISD), help Learning & Development and Instructional Design professionals overcome these challenges. But which should be used? There are differences between the methodologies. More importantly, there are different situations when each should be used.

First, a little background will be helpful. In 1975, the ADDIE model for developing training was created. This was a thorough, logical, linear approach that progressed through five phases:


At that time, and for a small percentage of today’s learning work “product,” training development was for a specific course with a clear beginning and end. In some organizations this is still the perception of our profession’s deliverable. Only when one of the five phases was completed, could Instructional Designers move to the next. Each phase contained one or multiple deliverables that were reviewed by subject-matter experts (SMEs) and stakeholders, revised, and approved. The flexibility for changing content decreased throughout the process. Changes made later in ADDIE had a higher impact on level of effort and cost. This is very similar to the rigid waterfall methodology used in software development.

As business needs evolved with an increased pressure on Learning & Development organizations to make the most of limited time and money, ADDIE evolved in the 90’s. This adapted ADDIE methodology, featuring “rapid phases,” is faster, more flexible and more collaborative than the traditional ADDIE model. For example, the Analysis and Design Phases can be condensed by combining key analysis and design tasks in rapid design sessions and by involving stakeholders, SMEs, Instructional Designers, and Product Specialists. This collaborative approach improves team synergy, cultivates a common understanding and consensus, and gives participants immediate ownership and buy-in. Adapted ADDIE also includes more iterative design and development phases to speed up review cycles and apply lessons learned from previous reviews.

In its adapted form, ADDIE is a sound approach for most training interventions. Unfortunately, it does not always meet the business, performance, and training needs of organizations implementing highly configurable software systems developed using the Agile software development methodology. As software teams work in short sprints, software is released, reviewed and revised in small, iterative batches. In this situation, training development and a software development are out of sync.

When using Agile software development, it’s a certainty that functionality changes, and even minor screen changes, will happen. The forthcoming system will evolve on a regular basis. It’s a costly challenge for training development to keep up. For example, using a learner seat time metric, let’s assume 10% of the screens need to be replaced in a one-hour web-based training course after final delivery. This can have a disproportionate cost impact of up to 25% of the original, firm fixed price.

As a result, the AGILE ISD methodology was developed by Conrad Gottfredson. It is a practical, performance-based training model, centered on business needs. It requires up-front planning and is similar to Agile software development in that it is an iterative approach to design and development. Rite-Solutions has modified the original AGILE ISD methodology based on our experience developing both Agile software and performance improvement interventions.

Rite’s AGILE ISD methodology should not be used for all types of training. It works well for systems and software based training, particularly for projects using Agile software development or where the software is architected to be highly configurable by the customer. In other instances, the adapted ADDIE methodology would be more appropriate.

Rite’s modified AGILE ISD methodology includes five phases:


In addition, the AGILE ISD model prioritizes tasks associated with the system being developed. Instead of developing training materials on everything from A to Z, only critical tasks that are identified early in the process are taught in a structured training environment. Other tasks can be addressed through performance support, which, compared to formal training materials, is easier and less expensive to update.

AGILE ISD also helps to improve efficiency. Its iterative methodology minimizes re-working training materials. Training teams also become “part of systems teams,” which helps to keep training efforts current with software development efforts. In some ways it also helps to change those long standing perceptions of training by injecting an advocate for our profession into the core of the organization.

As we look closer at the five phases of AGILE ISD in future posts, it will become apparent how performance is the metric that drives all of the development and delivery decisions of an AGILE ISD intervention.

Learn more about AGILE ISD
2018-10-30T13:08:11+00:00June 6th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , |

About the Author:

Over the last 23 years, Ms. Durbin has been involved in many aspects of performance solution development. Her diverse background in consulting and designing all types of training curricula showcases her ability to build competency models, conduct rapid analyses, and design complex performance solutions for various audiences, requirements, and mediums.