Most individuals, teams, organizations, communities, and countries have more wants and needs than available resources to address them. Use the information in this section to quickly separate needs from wants, distinguish among various kinds of need, and consider the analysis the project requires.

A want is something the client would like to have even though it does not contribute to the long-term learning or performance goal. By contrast, a need, when addressed, contributes to achieving the desired learning or performance goal by closing the gaps between the current condition and the desired condition. Thus, important questions for any proposed needs assessment are, Whose needs will the project address? And What kind of needs will the project address?

Because needs assessments are implemented in complex systems, a change in one level or element of the system can affect other levels and elements. For example, a needs assessment within an organization can produce results that contribute to the larger shared society. However, practitioners should carefully consider the focus for a needs assessment before starting any project. Three kinds of needs that you are likely to see in practice and that warrant a needs assessment are as follows:

Strategic or operational business needs. These are gaps between current and desired conditions relative to achieving a business strategy. Closing these gaps is critical for the long-term success of the entity or its units.

Individual performance needs. These are gaps between current and desired conditions relative to a person’s accomplishments, behaviors, or capacity for performance. An individual sometimes closes such gaps to meet personal goals or to meet strategic or operational business goals.

Learning needs. These are gaps in knowledge and skill between the current and desired conditions. Most needs assessment experts agree that individuals have learning needs. In addition, growing bodies of literature describe team and organizational learning needs.

Other kinds of needs may involve various groups (such as specific teams or departments, organizational units, or community and national groups) and different foci (such as sales performance or community collaboration and development).

When determining which needs to address first, keep in mind that interventions will be perceived as valuable only if they contribute to reducing the need by providing a solution. Usually the strategic or operational business needs are assessed for an entity before other kinds of needs are assessed. The ultimate goal of interventions in private sector organizations is usually increased profitability (reduced costs and time, improved quality, or increased revenues), and the goal of interventions in public sector organizations is usually fuller achievement of the mission or the funding goals.

Source : Kavita Gupta, ASTD, 2007

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