Jobs to be Done in Practice

A summary of talks from UX Research TO’s November meet-up

Stefan Jovanovic
5 min readDec 15, 2017
A group works on their diagram of forces in JTBD. Image by Riley Co.

Date: November 27, 2017
Location: Tulip Retail (Toronto)
Topic: Jobs To Be Done Methodology
Speakers: Kim Lawless and Roy Olende

This November, our meet-up focused on jobs to be done (JTBD) — the research framework that’s taking the UX world by storm. Here’s a quick summary of what we learned from our talk and workshop, including links to the presentation decks. In case you missed it, you’ll (almost) feel like you were there!

Kim Lawless

Talk #1 — JTBD at Format

Kim Lawless, Research Lead at Format

Key Takeaways

  1. The JTBD framework is based on the notion that customers don’t buy products — they hire them to do a job.
  2. “Switch” interviews are a technique for understanding why someone made a purchase, focusing on the tension that led them to switch to a new solution.
  3. The Timeline to purchase maps the user’s progression through this journey of switching from an old to new solution, mapping event triggers and milestones in the decision making process.
  4. The forces of progress are tools to maps out the forces that contribute to either maintaining the status quo or developing a new behaviour.
Kim captivating the audience. Image by Riley Co.


Kim’s engaging talk kicked off with some background on how JTBD came to be, and some of the big names that contributed to its popularity. Theodore Levitt inspired the mentality of outcome-based thinking, while Clayton Christensen pioneered the framework of jobs and hiring. Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek ran with this and took it to the next level by introducing switch interviews, timelines to purchase, and the forces of progress.

The timeline to purchase maps out a user’s purchasing journey from the first thought considering their situation through to product consumption. Kim explained that by conducting switch interviews with users, you can investigate the milestone events and triggers that impacted the journey of switching from an old solution to a new one, and how these milestones affected their decision making process.

Kim takes this work a step deeper by mapping the forces of progress to see exactly which forces are keeping the user with the status quo, and which are taking them to the new solutions. The push of the current situation and pull of a new solution lead users to forming new behaviours with new solutions, while habits of the present and anxiety of the solution keep people in their comfort zone with what they are already used to.

While the JTBD framework has many advantages like focusing a project with a lean research approach, Kim explains that there are also some limitations. These include JTBD’s reliance on peoples’ memory and the lack of contextual data surrounding users’ decision making. It can also be less effective for certain types of products, such as B2B.

To see how Kim applies JTBD at Format, take a peek at her presentation deck below.

Kim Lawless — JTBD + UX Research
Roy Olende

Talk #2 — The Four Forces & Switch Interviews

Roy Olende, UX Researcher at Buffer

Key Takeaways

  1. Contextual Inquiry/Observation is a research method for understanding a user’s decision making process when purchasing a product by shadowing them and asking questions.
  2. Demand Interviews are an interview method focused on finding what people want from a product, and measuring the value it provides.
  3. Roy led a switch interview with a volunteer to demonstrate what a deep dive into this line of inquiry looks like. This led us into the workshop exercise where we repeated this process in small groups to pull insights.
Roy several levels deep into his on-the-spot switch interview. Image by Riley Co.


We had an awesome audience volunteer participate in a jobs interview with Roy, where he embodied the show don’t tell mentality by showing us all how the JTBD framework works in practice. In Roy’s switch interview, he focused on getting the participant to remember the details of a recent purchase — her blonde hair!

He diligently inquired into how she arrived at her decision to make this purchase in lieu of alternate options, like getting her hair done professionally. She described the research she did over Instagram, and the consultation she had with stylists. An important event trigger was the frustration she experienced maintaining her hair, pushing her to explore other options.

Never ask, “what will you?” Instead you should ask, “what have you done?”

The goal, according to Roy: “to begin to see some patterns.” He asked the audience to weigh in on these patterns throughout the interview. To check out some sample questions, check out Roy’s presentation deck below!

Jobs-to-be-Done — Roy Olende

Part #3 — The Workshop

Next we put the JTBD framework into practice through a workshop! We split the audience into several groups where they conducted their own switch interviews with one of the group members.

As group members listened intently to the interviews, insights were flying across sticky notes mapping out the user data on chart paper. With a nail-biting finish to the exercise, the groups took turns sharing their inspirational insights with the rest of us. We definitely had an interesting range of purchases; among them an artisanal headboard, a $900 suitcase, and a house. It was the perfect ending to a brilliant night filled with community and insight!

The workshop groups hanging on to every word of their interviews! Image by Riley Co.

Thanks for reading! We’d like to thank our awesome hosts Tulip Retail. (They’re hiring!) And of course, many thanks to our sponsor!

Check out more photos from the event on Facebook, all by Riley Co.

UX Research TO is a community of passionate folks dedicated to sharing and mastering our craft. If you’d like to get involved, become a sponsor or host, or have any questions please get in touch!

Presenting insights from our JTBD interviews. Look at all those smiles! Image by Riley Co.



Stefan Jovanovic

User researcher by way of Anthropology. Supporter of Indigenous sovereignty.