A few months ago, a client’s training department underwent an audit. The external auditor, an intelligent, analytical, and somewhat cynical man, asked, “Why bother using instructional designers to create the training? They aren’t subject matter experts, so what do they add? Couldn’t we just cut them and save time and money by having the experts develop the training?” It’s a valid question, until one stops and thinks about it.
An instructional designer is a bit like an auditor. An auditor often is external to the organization. Bringing in the outsider enables the organization to look at the issue from a fresh perspective. Same thing with an instructional designer: the designer processes the new information more like a new user would. In other words, the designer thinks more like the target audience than like the expert.
The auditor does not necessarily have the technical skills for the work the organization does; however, the auditor comes with his or her own set of technical skills: how to analyze, ask questions, spot weaknesses, and write reports. The instructional designer also comes with a specialized skill set: how to ask questions, analyze complex systems, explain in simple terms, communicate effectively with adults. These skill sets can be applied, regardless of the situation, to enhance the organization.
In the end, the auditor creates a report that summarizes findings and offers suggestions, based on knowledge of best practices in general and use of basic common sense. The report is a road-map for future activities. The instructional designer creates a similar document: the training course summarizes important information and provides guidance for how to do things better in the future. The only difference is that the training is for immediate application and an audit report usually results in further studies and discussions.
Ultimately, the auditor and the instructional designer provide the same benefit: they provide another perspective to assess and improve the organization. And the audit results? The auditor saw the value in both the training program and the instructional designers and recommended keeping both.