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Relationship Building Excels Instructional Design

Working-togetherRelationship building is sometimes an overlooked aspect in the instructional design field. However, relationship building is an integral part to successful ID development. Subject matter experts, course reviewers, and design teams all contribute to the Instructional Design process and if one does not cooperate, the integrity of your project can be at stake. But with collaboration and solid relationships, your Instructional Design project can excel. Therefore, it’s important not only to advocate for sound instructional design practices, but also to advocate for the needs of your contributors.

Liz Ryan, CEO Human Workplace, states “project Management is a collaboration among people who all want the same thing and/but have widely varying views on the best way to get there. A project manager’s job is to keep everyone on the team feeling valued and listened to while keeping the many moving parts on track.” (source:

How do you keep your team feeling valued and listened to?

Respect Their Ideas and Expertise

At BlackLine Systems, the Product Training team works closely with subject matter experts in deciding which content is relevant and valuable. The SMEs have input in the initial course planning and script-writing steps, as well as with the final course review. Their input is invaluable for creating accurate course content.

Respect Their Time

The Product Training team is cognizant and appreciative of our SME’s time. We work on a schedule that best meets their needs, even if it means arriving at the office before 7 am or staying past our normal work hours.  The key is being flexible so that our SME’s are comfortable with recording with us.


When you spend a full day in a recording studio with your SME, you become pretty close to them in a short time. I spent a lot of time with a SME who was from out of town and was staying at a hotel. Even though we had met only prior to recording, I invited him for dinner and bowling after work with my friends. We spent all day cooped up together, I couldn’t imagine him staying cooped up in a small hotel room all night either. He accepted the invitation and we had a fun time relaxing outside of work. Now, whenever he’s at headquarters, he stops by my desk to say hello, an indication that we’ve developed a good relationship.

Praise Publicly

I think it’s also important to praise your collaborators. At BlackLine, we have a points system, called You Earned It, in which you give points to your colleagues that can be redeemed for prizes. The points seemed hokey at first, but it’s a positive way to thank your colleagues for their help. You can also set the points award to be public, which is a nice way to let the entire organization know that “hey, this person went out on a limb for me”. This public acknowledgement spreads good will and feelings of being appreciated.

Acknowledge Their Contributions

Our Product Team recently presented at the company’s monthly meeting (each month a different team presents). This was yet another avenue to express our gratitude to those subject matter experts, course reviewers, and designers for their help. Recognition is not necessarily a driving factor for why colleagues help Instructional Designers, but it’s a positive way to show mutual respect. I’m glad our company offers these ways to encourage collaboration.

With respect and acknowledgement, instructional designers can build successful relationships with their colleagues, which in turn will aid in the creation of excellent training and educational materials.


Accountability is A-Okay!

goalHave you ever set a goal for yourself– learn something new, exercise more, eat better– then fail? We’ve all been there. I have the problem of creating a long “wish list” of things to learn. But then I have trouble starting the learning the process. What’s the idiom? Starting is half the battle? That’s me in a nutshell.

I was lucky enough to be approached by a former student who asked for suggested resources and guides to learn a computer software that just happened to be on my wish list.

After a short twitter conversation, we decided to be “study buddies”, compiling lists of resources and helping each other through tutorials for Adobe Captivate.

Since we live in different cities (he’s in NY, I’m in LA), we’re using Google Drive to track our progress and share notes and tips. We created a list of resources and then chose a book and video tutorials to read through. We’ve created a timeline in Google Spreadsheet to schedule out when to complete each book chapter. We each contribute and share tips on a Google Document. We each have a separate font color to distinguish our notes from the others text.

So far, our communication has been asynchronous, but if we needed to talk “live”, I’m sure we’d call each other or use a chat or video chat client to discuss our Captivate issues.

It’s going well so far, I’m more encouraged to open up Captivate when I get home from work because I know Jonathan is relying on me. With this, I feel accountable to completing my goal. In similar ways, this is why people join group exercise programs or enroll in classes and seminars– so they have someone to report their progress to.


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