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.

28 thoughts on “The Death of ADDIE?

  1. I love your ideas about the ADDIE model, Tim. I am going to need to study the SAM model a bit more before I understand it completely… Thank you for providing the helpful links in your blog post. All the best, Alex

  2. Yes we have to be critical about new things. The silver bullet that correct everything is not invented yet.
    However, I’m just reading Allen’s book ‘Leaving ADDIE for SAM’ and I must say that I’m impressed. The reasons for leaving ADDIE Allen mentioned are so vivid. It feels like Déjà vu. I have been there. I experienced that.
    Sure, we’ll have to test SAM prior we conclude that it is better.
    My impression at this moment is that SAM is an up-to-date model and ADDIE looks more like ‘the first systematic widely used model we used for course development’. It served as a bridge between time when we were guided only by subject matter expert intuition – and – today.
    All the best,

  3. Those of us who have been in the game too long remember when the rules changed in EMS. We went from the diagnostics-based primary and secondary survey to the rapid trauma and medical examinations.

    Truth be told, the most significant change that this retooling of our skills caused was that certain words were now taboo in the classroom. Gone were the days when an EMT diagnosed the extra joint between hip and knee as a fracture… it is now a deformity. The treatment didn’t change, merely the words.

    I’ve seen it again and again, both in military and civilian life. The basic purpose of these types of changes is to allow someone to leave their mark on the field for the purposes of posterity and resume padding.

    1. You couldn’t be more right – I, too, was upset by the change to the ‘painful, swollen, deformed extremity’. I felt that it was not only an unnecessary change, but did a lot to ‘dumb-down’ both the curriculum and the practice of pre-hospital EMS. We’ve seen changes like this time and again in different circles and in different professions. I’m all for change, but it has to be a reflection of progress, not just change for its own sake.

  4. I agree with you on the fact that boring elearning is not the direct result of the ADDIE model. I disagree with his iterative processes being a time and resource savings. We attempted a prototype workflow and the iterations are not small tweaks here and there but rather reworks. I also disagree that storyboards cause miscommunication with SMEs. There are simplified ways to create a blueprint before building a house, to use his analogy. And I’ve never heard of a house being built based solely on a sketch.

  5. When I explain the ADDIE process to SMEs, the first thing I say is that they probably use it in their world, too. To create a widget, you need to first analyze, then design…not vice-versa. “Camping out” in the analysis and design phase is critical…not to jump to development to quickly, as that’s where money spent – either well or erroneously. Going back and forth in the analysis and design will make a more sure, successful development. Then implement, and evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Which brings us back to analysis. SMEs get it – they start learning right away why Instructional Design is an art and usually takes longer than they think it should. When others come along and put ADDIE down to make their idea sell it’s a HUGE RED FLAG for me. Their idea should speak for itself without criticizing what’s tried and true and very much common sense. SAM is a really trendy “Successive Asomething Model”…Approximation??? What does that mean? “go of outdated methodologies and start creating better, faster training products …” is in the ASTD blurb on the book. “Outdated?” – really now, do we have to go there? it’s only as outdated as the Instructional Designer…or author.

  6. Tim

    I agree with your comments about SAM and ADDIE. I am with you, I don’t believe ADDIE is broken, and I don’t believe it is a linear process; Like your description of “errors in use”.

    I disagree with comments about processes taking too long, or in this case “leads to boring training”. It is not the process, in the case of ADDIE, it is the procedures implementing the process and the individuals working the processes.

    I will definitely need to read more on SAM to see where (if) it fits.

  7. A really interesting book! Allen is critical of ADDIE – if you were selling a book wouldn’t you like to come up with something controversial for IDs to argue about? When you really read the book, you find he has a lot of good points. The fact that in reality most IDs don’t use ADDIE as a strict waterfall process actually make it difficult for people to speak the same language about it. Allen’s book shares a lot of really great information based on years of experience developing learning content and walks you pretty much step by step through a very creative development process. No process will be perfect for everyone. Hopefully, we can all take the best ideas and roll them together to come up with what works for us. We will of course always need to analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate but of course it never works just like that does it? Allen method really addresses a lot of the complexities and challenges of working together with SMEs, executives, designers, developers, IDs and trainers to create training products. He says, “coming to an agreement doesn’t substitute for good learning design”. I totally related to that. It’s a fresh new look at a fun team-oriented approach to developing creative learning products. Not every project needs the full SAM treatment, but I’ve got at least one good candidate and we’re going to try it out 🙂

  8. Coming from a software development background, I equate SAM to Agile and ADDIE to Waterfall. In software development circles, we have found that a “pure Agile” approach doesn’t work for all projects so we often hear the term “AgileFall”. I’m guessing that over time, a marriage of SAM and ADDIE will emerge, keeping ADDIE’s structure and proven methods while incorporating SAM’s iterative approach.

  9. I concur. The ideal model is to apply ADDIE in an iterative approach that allows faster and more dynamic development of content.

  10. Thank you for the article. For me the best call-out was the fact that a process, no matter what one chooses will make learning better. A process is only as good as the person or company using that process. My graduate work was all about Dick and Carey, but upon graduation I quickly recognized that the framework was adaptable to each company and project. Any process that becomes a checklist or become too ridged to work through usually equates to a less than learner centric solution. The art of design tends to take a back set to the process. Really enjoyed the article and debate.

  11. Allen isn’t really proposing anything other than a formative evaluation, which is already a part of any good instructional design process. I agree that he’s looking to leave his mark on training/instructional design, and this his method for doing it.

  12. I have taken only a brief look at the SAM model, and my first impression is there is nothing path-breaking proposed there. Successive approximation is a known way of improving quality and keeping the costs low. There is nothing to stop us from making ADDIE an iterative process. What SAM does apparently is that it strikes out the “analysis” phase, which I think is dangerous. Unless the model has simply renamed that phase as something else.

    I see ADDIE more as the “papa” of all models, all other models kind of showing a better way of using ADDIE. For instance, Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping model is a good way of developing action-packed training tied to business goals. All the same, the basic framework still remains ADDIE.

    I agree with you Tim, ADDIE by itself is not boring, it is up to us how we use this broad framework to develop interesting learning material. I don’t see the framework getting outdated anytime soon.

  13. I once attended a workshop where the guy teaching it indicated that he had invented Instructional Systems Design. He then proceeded to teach his workshop, based on the ADDIE model. I suggested to him that he may have created his own process and his own workshop, but he certainly did not invent ISD nor ADDIE.

    If you think about it, ADDIE is not really a process. It is a collection of basic principles. Principles exist, they are not invented. The principles of Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate will always be with us … they are not going to “die”. Processes that employ these principles come and they go. Rapid / iterative design and development is simply a way to apply basic principles. If someone wants to call it Successive Approximation Model (SAM), then more power to them. Let’s just remember the difference between principle and process.

    1. Hi Randall,
      Thanks for reading. Your comments are very insightful and I completely agree… the principles of ADDIE will always exist, even if someone wants to repackage them and apply their own label.

  14. Having just been introduced to SAM by a Project Manager who means well but does not understand the training design and development process, I searched for more information and came across this article. Thanks for shedding some light on the topic!

    I agree wholeheartedly on two of your points:
    1. The concepts in ADDIE must be addressed, regardless of what model or words we use. We cannot “create” training without paying attention to these concepts.
    2. The application of the ideas in ADDIE creates boring training, not the model. Boring training will always be boring training, regardless of what model is used to design and develop that training.

    I am currently working on a project for the US Army. Successive approximation is not an option. We have due dates that must be met per the contract. (Army Regulations covering training also still refer to the ADDIE model.) Getting access to our SMEs at all is hard enough; trying to actively collaborate with them, while an exciting prospect, simply won’t happen.

    Thanks to everyone for the insight.

    1. Jeff – Thanks for the message. I’m glad to hear that the US Army is still using ADDIE – and that you are as well! Amazingly, of everything I’ve written on, a significant quantity of messages and views have been on the SAM article.


  15. I’ve recently been taught UbD (backwards design). Does anyone have an opinion on how that stacks up against ADDIE and SAD?

  16. This discussion still seems to apply a whole year later. After reading the basics about UbD on Wikipedia I have the following comments: Backwards planning/design has been in the military for forever. Thinking of the intended outcomes first is how academic institutions think and act now. ADDIE still works. The trick is similar to what Tim relates in this article about using a circular design. There is a flow AND you can layer the elements. “Language Curriculum Design” by I.S.P Nation and John Macalister uses a circle labeled Evaluation with smaller interconnected circles on the inside. The smaller circles are Needs (Analysis), Principles(Design), Environment (Design), and Goals(Development encircles this). Personally I look at it in 3D. I set goals as the top layer in the center. I start with the objectives in mind, analyze what will get me to my goals, design content based on principles and the environment, develop the product with all that input, and evaluate everything all the way through.
    More effective timing on development is strictly dependent on the understanding and acceptance by SME’s, Admin, and Stakeholders of the importance of training / training quality in general. If they all believe it is important, they will work together, spend money, give resources, take ownership and get it done. ADDIE, SAM or whatever process is only as good as the people “pulling” not “pushing” the product. End users are not the product by the way. Some companies have that concept in mind when they decide to “push” training into effect. By using the product of curriculum design as a tool to “pull” in / engage / empower the end user, companies find success and the duration of the build to find that success is moot thereafter. If your only problem is making the process faster for your highly effective training, you are already the envy of the industry.

    1. Really great comments JC. I like your concept of a 3D model. I’m not familiar with ISP Nation and Macalister’s work, but will certainly have to take a look.

      Regardless of the model being used, the measure of success is truly up to the people involved as you mentioned. If they aren’t working in sync and with a common goal, it’s going to be a struggle.

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