An aside: if you need a little Irish diversion to get through the day, try last week’s side-trip post:
No ‘Danny Boy’ and Not Much Guile.
One of the most productive uses of a paradigm (the task-analysis technique this series of posts has dealt with) is to suggest the content and even the form of a job aid for the task in question.
Here’s a paradigm that was part of a large inventory-management system. The task involved setting a a code to kick off a data extract that in turn would generate an electronic data interchange form. (You can click the image for a larger version.)
There’s a simple chain, then a discrimination between four possible choices. You chose one code depending on the type of output you want. Regardless of the code you type, you press enter to put the new status to in effect (which, in the less-than-clear language of this system, meant you’ve finalized the replenishment order).
Here’s the job aid. Notice how it reflects the analysis in the paradigm. (Click for a larger version.)
The simple-chain steps become cookbook steps. The discrimination becomes a decision table (if X, then do Y).
I’m working up a more complex example based on a more complex paradigm. For the last post in this series, I’ll highlight how different patterns of activity result in different kinds of job-aid steps.
So: if you’ve got a complicated job, could you end up with lots of job aids? Sure.
It’s not a given that you’ll want to build job aids–but it’s pretty likely, and it’s more efficient (as I noted here). Doing the kind of analysis that the paradigm calls for, you learn enough about the task to look for the usual create-a-job-aid suspects:
- Infrequently performed tasks,
- Tasks with many steps
- Tasks with complicated steps
- Tasks with a high penalty for error
- Tasks likely to change,
- Tasks without a significant need for speed.
Job aids don’t necessarily take the cheat-sheet form you see above. In the real inventory project, yes, they did–a bunch of job aids in a spiral-bound book the inventory manager kept near the computer. They could just as easily come in digital form, like embedded, context-sensitive help.
The real point is that you can’t decide whether to teach the task (try and have people memorize the steps) or to support performance with a job aid until you know what the steps are, including discriminations and generalizations. One way to capture those is through a process like paradigming.