Training needs analysis: A look at Ford’s Model T

October 14, 2021



Needs analysis refers to an investigation into whether training or some other organisational intervention can solve a performance problem or is a process of determining what knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSAs) employees need to perform their jobs (Donald Ford 2010).

There have been several models that have evolved over the years and have been used to conduct training needs analysis.

Some of them include the widely used Robert Mager’s Performance Systems model, Geary Rummler’s Organisational Systems model, Allison Rossett’s Needs model and Donald Ford’s Ford Model T.

Donald Ford’s Ford Model T analysis process model is made up of four stages which are Surveillance, Investigation, Analysis and Action. We are going to look into the four stages in detail.

Surveillance: This is an ongoing process of reviewing vital information about the organisation in order to understand the issues and problems it is confronting.  The training professional needs to be aware of the important events and information impacting the organisation.

The type of surveillance may include:

λ         Having relevant company documents such as reports, memos, marketing information, among others circulated to the training professional

λ         Staying abreast of current work performance policies, processes and standards;

λ         Maintaining effective networks of personal contacts in the organisation;

λ         Deepening one’s knowledge of the key business issues senior management is working on.

Investigation: This phase begins when the trainer is confronted with a specific performance problem or an opportunity which requires data gathering. Here the needs analyst searches for clues to solve the mystery of why employees are not performing as expected.

The mostly used methods in needs analysis are interviews, surveys and observation.  The trainer needs to analyse the situation and choose the most appropriate method.

Analysis: This is the stage where the analysis of data that has been collected begins. It is the most challenging phase which requires the highest level of skill and knowledge. To assist in the analysis, there are two basic analytical methods that can be used. These are the quantitative method which includes statistical analysis, numerical summaries, graphs, charts, tables and related methods to analyse numbers.

The other method is the qualitative method which includes summaries of interviews, field notes, work samples, among others.

Action: When the trainer and the line manager begin to make decisions based on the data that they have collected and analysed, the action phase would have begun.

Taking action will distinguish needs analysis from mere research where creation of knowledge is the end product.

It must be borne in mind that failure to take action is in itself an action since it may mean that the organisation might have decided to leave with the problem or to forego an opportunity.

The following are some of the typical action outcomes of a needs analysis:

λ New performance skills and training content are designed and developed;

λ Updating of existing training content to meet new skills needs and new audiences;

λ Provision of alternative training and support on the job through structured on-the-job training, manuals etc.

λ Adoption of a combination of new training and changes to the job and related systems in order to solve a performance problem.

It is therefore recommended that the trainer undertakes a comprehensive needs analysis before acting on a perceived performance problem.

Paul Nyausaru is an HR Practitioner and leadership coach. For all your HR interventions and leadership development training you can get in touch with him on WhatsApp/call +263774062756 or Email


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