It seems that every time two or more training types get together, the words job/task analysis are eventually spoken. With the current emphasis on quality, training and education have been receiving a great deal more attention. As with any other focus area in business, accountability and value added quickly becomes important to the effort. This increased awareness is leading to a growing commitment to “do training right.” Training professionals have been trained for years in the methodology required to “do training right.” When asked what that is, they will produce some model of Instructional System Design. Any of these will have variations of the Job/Task Analysis (J/TA). The J/TA is a time tested and proven method of deriving instructional objectives and curriculum from a complex set of behaviors. Its utility was proven in the military and has been used successfully in all aspects of developing training programs from existing work.
It is easy to fixate on a single use of a tool. Most Instructional System Design (ISD) models use the Job/Task Analysis (JTA) as a step in the development of training programs. Therefore, one would ordinarily only think of doing a task analysis when in the process of course development. It is at this point that the linear natures of most ISD models become evident; the model is simply a means to an end, a way to create Training Programs where there were none. In this case, job/task analysis (process) is usually the secondary focus, and completion of the training program (product) is primary.
This is a shortcoming of job/task analysis. Anyone who has ever engaged in a full-blown J/TA on a complex work setting knows that it is a big job. The analysis becomes a tremendous burden to all but the largest training groups. Afterward, the accumulation of data often leaves the significant buried in the trivial. Depending upon the quality of the coding and job prioritization (hopefully done before data accumulation), some of the value of the analysis may be lost in the frenzy of “lumping” that occurs in order to get on with course development. This “invisible” step in course development, deriving core competencies and instructional objectives from the task analysis, requires a great degree of synthesis that does not show up well on most project tracking sheets.
Also, it is easy to lose significant tidbits that arise during the analysis. The J/TA’s uncover much more than instructional objectives. In the days preceding a global marketplace and tremendous economic pressure from abroad, American industry and business could afford the luxury of time, tradition and stability, product lines and the work associated with them did not change for years. When change did occur, it was deliberate and slow. Today the workplace changes on a daily basis. The future will not be one of large, long running training programs that are offered with limited expectation of value. The ability to learn and change in short periods of time must be structured into organizations.
All of the tools of a J/TA are still appropriate in today’s world. A shift in the paradigm surrounding the use of the tools and application of a different model, and therefore different expectations, will keep this tool in hand into the next century.