The dream project  . . . business needs are defined, the plan is in place, the content is reviewed, the outlines prepared.  Everyone is in agreement that it’s set to go.  You may even be further down the road into storyboarding or development, rolling right along.

And then a request comes in.  It all starts innocently enough.

You’ve been asked to add content or change something within the course.  Not a large change, but it’s enough to add time and effort to the overall process.  And then, a second request comes in.  This happens a few times during the project’s lifecycle, and we find ourselves with extended project timelines, a larger course than anticipated, and muddled outcomes.

Nodding your head in agreement?  You’re not alone.  We call this the Kitchen Sink Syndrome, and you probably have your own term of endearment for it.

While training design isn’t an exact science and there are times we need to adapt and be flexible, it helps to begin from a place where we clarify urgent vs. important for our finished course. Then our decisions on everything affecting the course can be made from this lens.

Read on to learn more about a simple tool you can use to help you uncover urgent vs. important in your training design efforts.

First, let’s define urgent and important.  These definitions are from

  • Urgent – Requiring immediate action or attention
  • Important – Of great significance or consequence

With those definitions in hand, if a course was created through the lens of importance, how would it be different?  How would it better support the business and the needs of your learners?  What objectives, content, and activities would make the cut?

Second, review and list the core components of your course.  These are items such as business requirements, learning objectives, raw content, and potential activities. Take the time to create a detailed, granular list of everything on the table that may become part of the finished product.

Third, you’ll use your list and this quadrant activity to help you prioritize your objectives, content, and activities through the lens of importance.  You’ll want to get as specific as possible about what’s important and what’s urgent for your course.  It might look something like this.

(Note:  This is adapted from improvisation expert Karen Hough’s Yes! Deck.  Visit and check out the full deck – it has many activities perfect for training and line of business teams.)

Those items in the top right quadrant, Important & Not Urgent, should get the most focus.

Use this activity during analysis, and then refer to it through the storyboarding and development processes.  It’s also useful for review cycles.  You may decide to use a blank set of quadrants for review and feedback.   Prioritizing your business outcomes, objectives, activities, content, and even feedback in this way gives you a visual and objective way to evaluate the importance of your course and its content.

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