A Jobs-To-Be-Done Lens As a Path to Better Experience Assessment

Librarians need to do a better job of evaluating how fully (or not) their community members complete their “job-to-be-done”. Using a “progress” lens may offer a path to establishing and measuring user progress-based outcomes.

For many patrons, library interaction could be reduced to a “jobs-to-be-done” methodology. If that is the case, how could librarians best leverage that perspective to design services that are “get-jobs-done” focused and then measure how well jobs-based outcomes are met?

We’d need to start with a “jobs-to-be-done” approach – at least for the jobs where community members have a well defined sense a perfectly completed job.

Community members’ most common library job-to-be-done that requires an on-site visit is to borrow a specific print book or physical media item. Online, the acquisition of a specific e-book, journal article, streaming video or other collection item is a frequent job-to-be-done. For these types of jobs, most library users will take a self-service approach. If our systems are useable and predictable, reasonably fast and efficient, the result ideally is a “job completed perfectly”.

Currently, I would venture to state that most libraries operate on an approach that is more hopeful than capable of consistently delivering on perfectly completed jobs. In the absence of assessment methods that tell us the extent to which our systems – basically “us” since we create/deliver and maintain them – succeed, fail or fall somewhere in between.

In his article “Measure Customer Progress Using a Proven Jobs-To-Be-Done Methodology” Tony Ulwick gives a concise explanation of how a customer would determine the success, on multiple levels, of their job completion. It can be stated as simply as this:

Customers believe they have made progress when they are offered a means to get a job done better and/or more cheaply.

Ulwick suggests using a “progress” lens through which to examine the job-to-be-done approach. He then elaborates on different dimensions on which customers determine progress.

  • Get part of a job done better.
  • Get an entire job done without having to cobble together disparate solutions.
  • Get a job done with a single product.
  • Get multiple jobs done with a single solution.
  • Get a job done more cheaply

Using a library example, consider a community member who has a book title and wants to obtain it. If the library holds the book and it’s readily available, a single product, the library catalog, should get the job done easily. But locating the book is only one part of the job. Another system, such as a self-checkout machine is needed to complete the job. Things get exponentially less simple if the library doesn’t have the book. The community member might stop there and head to Amazon, but if their job demands free access then that member may be willing to pursue an interlibrary loan. How many members, outside of the experienced ones, will even know where to start that process?

When designing user experiences, I think it would be of value use the jobs-to-be-done lens to approach services as those that can be designed with user progress in mind. That is, the community member should easily determine if their job exemplified progress. Another set of job-to-be-done, the ones we know require more intensive support, should be designed with the expectation for human intervention and relationship building. That way libraries could maximize their limited human resources to prioritize where staff enable community member progress.

Another consideration is that community members sometimes come to the library not knowing exactly what job they need to get done – and expect to receive help from library staff to figure out what it is. I’m thinking of students I’ve encountered who have an assignment in hand but are not quite sure what they are supposed to do. You might say their job-to-be-done is simply to find out what to do, but there are times when librarians can get beyond just a task or transaction – in fact that’s what we should hope to do most of the time.

Ulrich also shares ideas for how measure if customers are making progress towards getting their job done. He suggests using three dimensions: speed (how fast), reliability (consistently free of errors/failure) and efficiency (little or no waste of time or resources). Too often community members use their library and there is no measurement of their success in completing their job-to-be-done.

I like the “Outcome-Driven Innovation” process that Ulrich recommends. I can envision a fast and easy online assessment where library customers would use a sliding scale, from “Job Not Completed” to “Job Completed Perfectly” to identify how well the library allowed them to accomplish their job. Outcomes are based primarily on speed, reliability and efficiency, but their could be human dimensions as well (e.g., friendliness, welcoming approach, compassion, etc.).

I can imagine asking community members to complete a quick, sliding scale assessment (likely conducted on a tablet or via a follow up email) for measuring how well the library supported the completion of their job-to-be-done. It would not provide an in depth explanation, but would at least be a start to achieve a reliable and consistent method to measure how often we enable community member progress – or fail to live up to their expectations for achieving it.

Author: StevenB

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University. Steven is the author of two regular columns published by Library Journal, From the Bell Tower and Leading From the Library. With John Shank he is co-founder of the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community. Bell and Shank are also authors of the book Academic Librarianship by Design. Bell's latest book is Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership. More information is found at his website.

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