The Death of ADDIE?

In a recently received email solicitation for ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) membership, they are offering a free copy of Michael Allen’s new book Leaving ADDIE for SAM.  Like many practicing trainers who also design and develop training material, I’ve used the ADDIE model my entire career to facilitate the process.  ADDIE, if you aren’t familiar, is an acronym for the steps in this universally accepted instructional design process standing for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  This process, when used properly, is a key to success in instructional design.


So, being intrigued by this concept of replacing ADDIE with another model, I did some research on the new model – SAM – which stands for Successive Approximation Model.  I came across a few articles and blogs which helped explain things to me.

This article is from Allen Interactions, Mr. Allen’s company which is promoting this new model.  Here’s another blog which promotes the Successive Approximation Model.  While these articles provided me with some insight and clarification on the SAM process, I’m honestly not sold.  I don’t think the ADDIE model is broken – any identified deficiencies (Mr. Allen identifies seven of them) are, in my humble opinion, errors in use rather than the model itself.  One must know how to use the model to be effective.  That’s like saying that a computer is broken because the user doesn’t know how to operate it.  I was actually put off by the insinuation in the previously linked article that the ADDIE model lends to ‘boring, lifeless training’.  I’m sorry, but no model is going to lend itself to or prevent that – that’s completely on the shoulders of those who design the training.  Admittedly, I’d like to learn more about SAM, but these are my first impressions.

All this said, can the ADDIE model be enhanced?  Absolutely.  There have been several modified ADDIE models proposed over the years, yet none have seemed to stick.  The essential differences in these models, including what’s captured in Mr. Allen’s SAM process, is to make the model less linear and to include feedback loops within the process for regular look backs, particularly to the data from the analysis phase.  The problem with these models, including SAM, is that they seem to require redundancy.  There are certainly instances when such redundancy is not necessary.  Regardless of these differences, I’m not sure that the ADDIE model was designed to be a strictly linear process anyway, and anyone who is a slave to a process without regularly reflecting on the quality of the product/outcome (and in training it’s all about learner outcomes) is likely in need of some remedial training on the matter.  I actually prefer this cyclic visualization of ADDIE to better show the interactions between the phases.

ADDIE Viewed as a Cycle

The initial instructional design training that folks go through may actually be the root cause of the problem.  If they are not taught to utilize flexibility inherent in the process then they obviously won’t see that flexibility.

The bottom line, regardless of what process we use, is that we must produce quality outcomes.  No outlined process will give us all the answers or a turn by turn roadmap to lead us to success.  We need to use our brains and apply what we’ve learned while keeping our ultimate goal in mind.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.