Some books are written primarily to be read; others are written mainly to be used. Jim Kalbach’s book, Jobs to Be Done, should inspire the best of both. The reason is not just that Jim is a fluent writer with a crisp and clear purpose, but that he treats the fundamentals of user design, user experience, and the “job to be done” with thoughtfulness, seriousness, and rigor. I cannot overstate how important that is.
In my classes, workshops, and advisory work, I have the good fortune to work with talented people who truly want to do excellent work. I like and admire them. They are talented and smart. But oftentimes, because they are so talented and smart, they presume or assume they know the fundamentals of something when, in truth, they do not. With apologies to Atul Gawande, they have a “Checklist Manifesto” grasp of what they’re trying to do. That is, they’re doing everything they’re supposed to do but lack an essence and esprit that makes the work compelling. What people minimize (or overlook) about Gawande’s checklists is that they are supposed to be prompts and reminders for people who truly know their stuff. The challenge here is that people—smart people, caring people—don’t always quite know the right stuff.
Yes, they know the “product” and the “service” and the desired and desirable “user experience,” but do they really understand and appreciate the power and importance of “the job to be done”? The concept is simple and straightforward—it’s scalable, implementable, and extensible. Instantiation is not.
That’s why Jim’s book is so useful and important. He’s got the rigor and the chops to not only make the fundamentals accessible and understandable, but practical and doable as well. While I am a huge Clay Christensen fan (indeed, he was kind enough to write a blurb for one of my books), I think he’d be one of the first to acknowledge that his breakthrough conceptual thinking requires facilitators, translators, and interlocutors to make it work in the real world. With tongue firmly in cheek, it’s quite a “job to be done” to get the “job to be done” done. But that’s what Jim’s book empowers you to do.
This is not a book to be read in a sitting or a transcontinental flight. Similarly, you’re a jerk if you hand it to a colleague or a boss without spending some time with it yourself. The real way to get value from this book is to ask yourself—honestly and openly—where your greatest frustration lies as a value creator. Then start leafing through this book—not to find yourself or the answer, but to understand the essential fundamentals of the job to be done.
—Michael Schrage, Research Fellow at MIT’s Initiative on The Digital Economy and author of Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? [HBR Press]