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Incorporating the Jobs to Be Done Framework (Book Review)

A review of

The Jobs to Be Done Playbook

by Jim Kalbach

Book Website

About this book

A good reference for Methods/How-To and UX Theory Primary audience: Designers and researchers who are new or have some experience with the topic Writing style: Matter-of-fact Text density: Equal parts text and images Learn more about our book review guidelines Jim Kalbach’s Jobs to be Done Playbook is a detailed guide for incorporating jobs to be done (JTBD) into any product, service, or user experience design process. “At its core, the concept of JTBD is straightforward: focus on people’s objectives independent of the means used to accomplish them,” says Kalbach in his introduction (xii). Aimed at practitioners of all levels, their bosses, and business owners and marketing managers who may or may not be guilty of dictating features without coordinated market or user research, this handbook has something for everyone. “Borrowing from the metaphor of a sports playbook,” Kalbach’s “plays” are dictated in the imperative manner of a veteran coach psyching up his players before a big game (xvii). Case studies are used judiciously to highlight particular sticking points throughout this useful guidebook. Sample deliverables are included in each of the “doing” chapters. Illustrations and tables are incorporated when pictures serve the reader better than words. For those just getting started with JTBD, Kalbach provides a history lesson with a supporting illustration of the sometimes-competing definitions of JTBD (see Table 1.1 on page 14) and a summary of the core concepts of JTBD (Chapters 1-2). For those interested in improving their JTBD skills, Kalbach includes useful insights into the value of JTBD, the methods for unleashing that value (see Chapters 3-4), and a step-by-step manual for incorporating JTBD into each phase of a project from concept through support (Chapters 5-8). For those proficient in JTBD who want to hone their expertise, Kalbach delivers the plays in the form of a quick-reference chapter to keep busy multitaskers on track and to keep teams headed down the field in the same direction (see Quick Reference: JTBD Plays). Outside of the plays themselves, the most useful reference for any practitioner is the handy table in Chapter 8, titled Common Objections to JTBD and Arguments Against Them (see Table 8.1 on page 243). As most user experience professionals will attest, often the biggest challenges they face are objections to the UX process itself. Kalbach has provided not only the step-by-step guides needed to put JTBD into action, but also the words necessary to overcome objections to utilizing this approach. He even included instructions on how to “Bring JTBD to Your Organization” (p 241-245). These pages incorporate matter-of-fact, empathetic mentoring tips from someone who clearly has answered this question many times and who wants others to learn from his experiences. The Jobs to be Done Playbook reads in places like a prescriptive recipe book that must be followed to a tee. Kalbach even refers to a section of the JTBD in Action chapter as “JTBD Recipes.” However, these recipes are more like menus that allow practitioners to pick and choose the plays that best suit an organization or team. Plays can be mixed and matched to meet the needs of any project, product, or service in a way that makes the case for incorporating JTBD into the design process self-evident. [bluebox]

Bring JTBD to Your Organization

One of the most common questions I get after my talks and workshops on JTBD is, “How do I begin?” Customer-centered advocates want to get started, but face barriers inside of their organization. The good news is that with increasing frequency, stakeholders are directly requesting JTBD research by name. The bad news is that JTBD requires a change of mindset and behaviors from everyone in the organization. Patience and persistence are required. And even if the will is there, getting started with JTBD in your organization can be a challenge. Here are some recommendations to consider as you strive to bring JTBD to your organization:

Start small.

Try individual JTBD techniques alone or in pairs on isolated projects. Get a success story quickly that you can use to get time and resources to do more. Don’t attempt to follow full-fledged methods, like ODI or the Jobs Atlas, right off the bat. Instead, pilot an effort to learn how JTBD fits into your situation and your organization.

Integrate JTBD into other activities.

Fold JTBD research into other workstreams that are already planned.  For instance, if your user research team is conducting an ethnographic study of customers, insert some questions from jobs interviews to collect feedback needed to complete a job map. A job map, in particular, is a powerful way to summarize your overall insights to feed into solution-finding activities, such as design workshops…. [/bluebox]
Sarah Paglliaccio

Sarah Pagliaccio is an educator and UX consultant working at the intersection of tech, the arts, and humanness. Sarah believes computer-human interactions should be characterized by transparency and dignity. That is the message she strives for in her design work, writing, and teaching at Bentley University.