Front End Analysis
The first step in the instructional design process should be a Front End Analysis (FEA). Many training
organizations fail to conduct a FEA (consisting of a performance analysis, needs assessment and instructional goal)
because of the additional time it takes in the beginning. Without this analysis, organizations invariably find that
they have trouble realizing the true impact of a training project. The purpose of a FEA is to gather information in
order to verify problems and identify solutions. A FEA consists of the following 3 parts:
• Performance Analysis
• Needs Assessment
• Instructional Goal
A performance analysis is the use of analytical tools for identifying organizational performance problems and
developing the most appropriate solutions. Identifying the tools at this point is beyond the scope of this summary.
It is important, however, to identify some example questions that can be asked during a performance analysis.
1. What is the problem that was originally voiced?
2. Is the voiced problem related to a core organizational outcome?
3. Are there established operational goals for this outcome?
4. Is the operational goal being met?
5. Is there an operational need?
6. Have job performance standards been set for achieving the operational goal (desired state)?
7. Are job performance standards being met (actual state)?
8. Is there a job performance need?
9. Are there external factors outside the control of local management that are contributing to operational and
job performance needs (e.g. government regulations, corporate hiring freeze, labor contract, etc).
10. Are there internal factors within the control of local management that are contributing to job performance
11. Are there solutions for the performance needs?
At the end of the performance analysis, experience has shown that many organizational problems that previously
were addressed by training are now solved via a multi component solutions that may or may not include training; for
example organizational remedies, incentives, tools, etc. In my experience, training is usually the most expensive
and time consuming of any of the remedies that can be selected.
After the performance analysis, a needs assessment is done. The logic of the needs assessment is very simple; you
need to find the following 3 pieces of information:
• The desired state
• The actual state
• The gap or difference
The first step is to establish a desired state; for example, a beginning golfer will make 6 out of 10 putts from within
5 feet of the hole. This is the state at which you would like the audience to perform.
After this, the next step is to determine the actual state; for example, Curt can currently make 3 out of 10 putts from
5 feet or less from the hole. He is performing poorly and is short of the desired state of 6 putts out of 10 tries. In
some instances, individuals are performing at the desire state and simply do not need training to improve
The last step is to determine the gap and therefore describe the NEED; for example, Curt's putting is poor because
he only makes 3/10 of his 5 foot putts. The NEED is to improve Curt's putting by 100%, or 6/10 putts.
At this point, an instructional designer can use the information from the performance analysis and needs assessment
to create an instructional goal. A complete goal statement should describe the following:
• The learners
• What the learners will be able to do in the performance context
• The performance context in which the skills will be applied
• The tools that will be available to the learners in the performance context
For example, Curt will be able to make 6 out of 10 putts from within 5 feet of the hole on a green measuring an 8 on
the stimp meter while using a ping odyssey putter.
Once you have the instructional goal, you can begin to go through the ADDIE model to determine what the
instruction will be, how it will be designed, delivered, implemented, evaluated, and managed.
Front End Analysis
I begin the discussion with a common question voiced by most training organizations…"If we know that a front end
analysis works, then why do we not use it?"
When starting a training project, individuals may find it difficult to navigate a maze of literature and determine
where they must begin the process of determining what type of training to deliver. Most of the time, requests for
training are sent to departments with an expectation that the learning organization will deliver what has been ordered.
Much like a Burger King model…You remember the jingle from the 1970s, "hold the pickles, hold the lettuce,
special orders don't upset us, all we ask is that you let us serve it your way". In this example, the fast food restaurant
does not ask questions of the customer; it is the customer who drives the service.
Instead of this "one way" service model, I would prefer the "two way" consultative model of a doctor treating a
patient. In this model, the doctor is the training organization while the patient is the corporation. When a patient
visits a doctor, it is because of a perceived problem by the patient. For example, the patient will begin by voicing
their concerns that their head or back hurts or their throat is sore. Sometimes, a patient may offer advice to the
doctor as to what they think is happening …"I know I have strep throat".
Given the symptoms, the doctor begins to analyze the patient by checking his temperature, blood pressure, and
medical history. Questions are asked of the patient to determine the root cause of the sickness or problem…"Have
you had a fever or any congestion with your sore throat".
Although using a FEA is more time consuming up front, the training project will ultimately be better served with an
accurate diagnosis of the true problem. There is an old adage in the training industry that states, "An ounce of
analysis is worth of pound of objectives" (Harless). This tells us that by using some front end analysis, we can more
surely focus on the problem to be fixed. The FEA also allows for a measurable and accurate ROI that usually does
not exist under the "one way" service model. In most instances, compliance training does not require a FEA.
It is my desire to see that Training/Performance Organization be more akin to doctors than to fast food employees as
they relate to needs. In my opinion, a Front End Analysis is a needed approach to filter most requests for training.
Dick, W., Carey, L., and Carey, J. O. (2005). The systematic design of instruction (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn &
The Handbook of Human Performance Technology (2006)