The Job Stories Toolkit

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What Is It & Why Do It?

Job Stories break down customer interaction with your product or service into bite size tasks that the user(s) needs to move through to get to a desired outcome. They have been created based around the ‘Jobs to be done’ research methodology and pioneered by companies such as Intercom in recent times. They are an alternative to using ‘User Stories’ but are unique in that they are less prescriptive in their intended action and more user-centric in nature. They take into account the customer’s context, motivations, behaviours and emotional states. This helps give product creators more insight into why they are creating features and increases empathy for the customer.

By focusing on context rather than implementation it allows for a broader understanding of the problems and the generation of possible solutions. Using Job Stories it is possible to lay out in writing (even before a single screen has been created) the intended User Experience. This is great for getting thoughts down without provoking predefined solutions too early. Combine Job Stories with a Jobs To Be Done research methodology and it provides a flexible, empathetic and robust foundation for thinking deeply around the User Experience.

Who’s Involved & What’s The Setup?

Job Stories can be done alone but it is recommended being tackled in a small multidisciplinary team. Involving a variety of disciplines into the process makes sure you capture most scenarios, offers you different perspectives and allows your team to empathise with the problems your customers are facing. You should allow a good 1/2–1 day for the process if the journeys are particularly complex or involve multiple users. After their creation make sure it’s widely available to your team members.

Step-By-Step Guide

  • Before you start creating your Job Stories you need to have gathered enough information about your target audience to understand the jobs that they are trying to achieve. Do this by using quantitative and qualitative research methods such as interviews, surveys and internet research. Process this information into structured takeaways that can inform your Job Story writing. If possible use JTBD (Jobs To Be Done) research methods to uncover the hidden reasons customers do the things they do. This often reveals surprising insights into the lives of your users.
  • Once your research has been gathered and shared around the team start by laying out the basic high-level steps that your customer will go through. This will form a structure to start filling in with more detail as you run through your customer journey.
  • Start at the beginning of the customer journey. Write your first Job Story with ‘When…’ this is the situation/context the user is in at the time of completing the job. For example: ‘When a student is in school…’ Or ‘When I am in school’ — Job Stories can be written as first or third person, whichever seems most suitable but stay consistent throughout. They also can contain more than one customer journey if the experiences are intertwined and so should be written at the same time.
  • Next move onto the ‘I want to…’ or “They want to…’. This is the motivation for the job they are trying to complete. For example; ‘When a student is in school, they want to pick the right electronic course for their lesson…’
  • Lastly write down the ‘So that I can…’ or ‘So that they can…’ statement. This is the expected outcome of the previous action(s). This sheds light on why the customer wants to achieve a specific goal. This can include social, environmental and emotional drivers. For example:When a student is in school, they want to pick the right electronic course for their lesson, so that they canfollow along with the teacher and feel a sense of progression as they learn the course material’.
  • Repeat this process as you move through the customer journey.
  • It’s important to not try to write too many job stories but also not too little. Job Stories should lay a foundation of your product. They should give enough information to move forward and flesh out the user experience in more detail. If you find there are too many try and group these and refine down.

Takeaways

  • Job Stories are an alternative to User Stories. They emphasis context, motivation and emotions. This allows the team to empathise with the customers ‘jobs’ that they need to achieve.
  • Getting multi-disciplines to partake in writing the stories allows you to get a range of perspectives, getting everyone thinking in a human-centred way and aligns your team on the high-level objectives.
  • Try to balance the number of Job Stories you create so you have enough information to move forward but not too many that they end up too prescriptive.
  • Don’t be afraid to adapt the system to suit your needs and update your stories as you have a deeper understanding of your customers.

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