“Just get the job done”

How many times have you heard a client say that. They have talked to their partner (life and business), talked to some clients and prepared a brief in their head. Now it’s just a matter of getting the job done.

The problem is design projects can be complex and multifaceted. Way beyond the comprehension of many clients.

To unpack this complexity you can use the 5 Whys process. This is a great example of how a problem went from being a technical fault to a human failing. In this case the job to be done was not to fix the server (although that did have to be done) but rather the job involved counselling and retraining a supervisor. Listen carefully to the structure of the questions to understand the process of asking 5 Whys.

How many times have you had a client come to you with a brief that gives the solution based on their gut reaction. It’s an output solution – I need a new website – rather than an outcome solution – sales are falling and I don’t know why.

The solution is greater than sales figures, customer characteristics, product attributes, new technologies, or trends. It’s a great example of how jobs are never simply about function—they have powerful social and emotional dimensions.

When asking the 5 Whys it’s important to question the social and emotional motivations.

Social motivation is the idea that people in general have a motivation to engage with other people, to interact with other people. That’s been very important to human survival: people tend not to survive very well on their own.

Keeping social motivation in mind and asking why the client has arrived at a decision can help to understand how they think they will be perceived within their workplace. Requesting a new website may make them feel more important than admitting that sales are falling because the sales people lack product knowledge.

Clients at times, are driven by emotions while briefing a designer. In such cases, the client doesn’t bother to make intelligent or logical decision. They’re generally carried away by emotions. Emotionally, the client develops a sort of affection towards the solution they have come up with. They ’hate’ the current website and ‘love’ that of a competitor. Start here with the 5 Whys.

Taking this approach leads into an empathy map where you piece together what the client thinks and feels, sees, hears, says and does.


Designers are uniquely positioned to do the 5 Whys analysis as part of every brief they get. They are attuned to the customers needs in a way that makes it easy for them to understand the REAL job to be done.

Greg Branson

Want more?

Here’s more information on design maturity:

  1. Walk a day in your clients shoes – empathy mapping
  2. Understanding a client to devlop new business
  3. How design mature are your clients.

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