Activity theory gives us a powerful lens to analyze what is needed. In traditional task analysis, we look at a task and pull it into its component parts – we are looking at the task…the thing. In AT, we are doing at the activity – DOING the task. If you are chopping a task into pieces, you may forget the human doing the task. It won’t make sense to you to have someone say, “I think my car came off the assembly line Friday afternoon at 5.” (as if they ever stopped).

Thinking about the ACTIVITY, you HAVE to think about who is doing it. Are they tired, angry, proud, hating every moment? Home baked bread and store bought have the same ingredients. One is made on an assembly line. One is made a loaf of two at a time for a family. They taste different. The cultural and historical context makes a difference.

So, if you are thinking about developing a sales manager at a company that has a “take no prisoners” approach, the task of selling will be a different activity than the task of selling for a company that prides itself on never forcing a sale, but providing solutions management. You curriculum would be very different, not just actual items trained, but the supports, the evaluations, the assessments.

Here’s a video on it.


Then read a paper – Here’s a good one. Dr. Foote is clear and readable (surprisingly rare)