I have a new Job-to-Be-Done Canvas for you. There are several other JTBD templates on the interwebs, but this one is better. 😇 Let me tell you why.
The Segway Experience
Five years ago, I enjoyed a city tour with my two kids in Barcelona, on Segways. Riding around the city with the three of us and our city guide was a memorable experience. I remember it as a series of WOW moments. We saw many places in just a few hours, and a lot of people noticed us everywhere we went. That was cool. 😎
The Segway was introduced in 2002 amidst much hype and fanfare. Inventor Dean Kamen, investor John Doerr, and innovator Steve Jobs believed this new vehicle would bring about a revolution more significant than the PC, maybe even bigger than the Internet!
They were wrong.
In the US, Segways didn’t fit into existing infrastructure because they were too fast for pedestrian sidewalks and too slow to participate in main traffic. They were also inconvenient because users couldn’t easily carry shopping bags with them, and leaving a 5000-dollar machine outside a store was also an issue. Worst of all, people felt embarrassed because they were standing out from the crowd. (For them, this was a WTF moment.) It seemed that famous investors and innovators like Doerr and Jobs had not imagined visibility to be a problem.
The Segway was not a total failure, though. The machine has found niche markets with tourist guides, park rangers, law enforcement, and airport personnel: the kinds of people who don’t go shopping and appreciate being visible.
From Products to Experience
Managers, entrepreneurs, and teams usually talk about products. They discuss product visions, product backlogs, product managers, product teams, product releases, and product roadmaps. Segway’s inventor, Dean Kamen, also thought he launched an innovative new product. However, he overlooked that products give customers an experience. In this case, it was a bad one.
“New products succeed not because of the features and functionality they offer but because of the experiences they enable.” – Clayton M. Christensen
My internet provider prides itself on offering the fastest Internet product, but my experience is that they have the worst customer service in the country. The local parcel delivery company offers a reliable service, but my experience is that they made me collect my packages from six different locations already. My accountant provides a quality product, but my experience is that they handle my account so late that I’ve already forgotten everything about last year’s transactions. And don’t get me started about the many SaaS subscriptions that waste my time by making me dig up my invoices out of the bowels of admin panels and account settings.
Even the best product can leave me with a bad experience. So, why are we even still talking about product backlogs and product roadmaps? Shouldn’t they be experience backlogs and experience roadmaps? A focus on just the product seems like sub-optimization to me. Customer Experience (CX) is more holistic than just product management. It should be our aim to eradicate all unhappiness with our business.
The Happiness Gap
As part of the work I did for Managing for Happiness, I read several books about happiness to understand better what makes people happier in their jobs. I found that I could condense the many hundreds of pages of stories and insights into a simple formula.
Happiness is closing the gap between your situation and your expectation by moving either point.
There are two ways to close the gap between your situation and your expectation. You can lower your expectations by learning to be happy with what you have (the green arrow). This is the lifestyle of Buddhist monks and the winning strategy for anyone who wants to remain happy in a long-term relationship.
The alternative is to become happier by improving your situation (the blue arrow). This is the unlimited fuel for entrepreneurship, continuous innovation, growing economies, and the hedonic treadmill. People always pursue something to make them happier, for a while, until they want the next thing.
For product creators worldwide, helping people close their many happiness gaps is what we refer to as the Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD).
Earlier this week, I ordered a few pairs of non-skid socks because it’s far too easy to slip and fall in my house, and the pairs that I had have all disappeared to a parallel universe that’s overflowing with lost clothing. I expect the new socks will make me a bit happier until, they too, disappear.
Clayton Christensen (in Competing Against Luck) says that customers “hire” a product to close a gap between situation and expectation. They hire a snickers bar to silence a rumbling stomach between lunch and dinner. They hire a fitness app to see progress as a result of their daily workouts. They hire an Uber car to ensure that their friends get home safely after a party.
Various experts have come up with definitions for the Job-to-Be-Done:
- The progress that a customer desires to make in a particular circumstance. (Clayton Christensen)
- The process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to transform her existing life situation into a preferred one, but cannot because there are constraints that stop her. (Alan Clement)
- A statement of what the customer is trying to achieve in a given situation. (Tony Ulwyck)
- The process of reaching objectives under given circumstances. (Jim Kalback)
I am not interested in picking sides. Each of these definitions makes sense to me. However, I find it odd that none of the JTBD experts seems to have made the connection with the science of happiness. In my opinion, there is practically no difference between Job-to-Be-Done and Gap-to-Be-Closed.
Needs versus Desires
A Job-to-Be-Done is rarely just a functional thing. Some experts say that there are emotional and social aspects to each job. I think that’s a bit too simplistic. When you dig into experience, a bit more is going on!
Sometimes, people want to get out of a current situation because it causes them pain or discomfort. They seek medicine to treat illnesses. They want water because they’re thirsty. They call their friends when they feel lonely. In such cases, closing the gap is based on a need to get rid of problems, struggles, and frustrations.
Other times, people want to get closer to an expectation because they anticipate a gain or convenience. They dress up to look better. They book a three-star restaurant because the food will be excellent. They go out with their friends because it will be fun. Closing the gap is based on a desire to go after opportunities, enjoyments, and successes.
The difference between needs and desires is shown on the vertical axis in my 25 Drives Grid. (If you look closely, you can see that about half of the drives on this grid are social.)
Activities versus Outcomes
With intrinsic motivation, it’s the activity itself that we need or desire. Drinking coffee, watching television, and hiking in a natural park are intrinsically enjoyable activities. Some of the Alan Klement (in When Coffee and Kale Compete) refers to these as jobs-as-activities.
With extrinsic motivation, it is the outcome of an activity that we need or desire. There is little that’s satisfying about booking flight tickets, doing the laundry, or filing taxes, but we do these things to get results. Alan Klement calls them jobs-as-progress, but it might be better to refer to them as jobs-as-outcomes.
I believe it’s a mistake to assume that customers always aim for outcomes rather than activities. Granted, this is usually true for products such as medicine and transport. But when I paint the walls of my house, I enjoy the process of painting. I find it very satisfying to make an ugly wall beautiful and to do so myself. Hiring a professional painter will get me the same outcome, but I would not be equally happy. I would not be able to look at the walls and think, “I did that!”
Closing the happiness gap (progress) is a combination of doing activities and achieving outcomes. We find happiness in one or the other, or both.
Emotions and Senses
One thing that has bothered me about JTBD literature is that motivations are often confused with emotions.
I plan to try a new restaurant tonight because my motivations are Food and Curiosity. Depending on the success of my choice, I could end up with various emotions such as Anticipation, Joy, Surprise, or Disgust. Our motivations are what drives us to make our choices. Our feelings are how we respond to what we are offered. In the various JTBD books I have read so far, the authors did not carefully consider this difference.
Having just finished chocolate milk while writing this article, I feel it’s necessary to add that tickling the senses is another way to impress your customers. In fact, for many products in the world, triggering the senses is what people pay for! It’s why I research the best-rated ice cream parlor in every Italian city that I visit.
With every Job-to-Be-Done, it’s worth considering both motivation and impression. What should motivate our customers to try our product? Which combination of drives will trigger them? But also, how should they feel when using our product? Which mix of emotions will be their reward?
Meaningful and Stable Jobs
As product designers, the challenge is to create experiences that make people happy by getting the job done and closing the gap. We don’t seek customers to sell our products; people hire products to have experiences.
You are not in the business of selling cookbooks. You help people have fun while cooking (an activity) and serve delightful dishes for their friends (an outcome). Your cookbook is just a means to an end. (Alternatively, the job could be to help someone make a colorful bookcase. I must admit that I hired several books just to improve the design of our living room.)
“The secret to building great products is not creating awesome features; it’s creating awesome users.” – Kathy Sierra
Jobs-to-Be-Done should be stable over time. For thousands of years, people have wanted to travel to family (the Job-to-Be-Done), but the available modes of transport have changed drastically throughout the ages. Likewise, people have always wanted to socialize with friends, cook food, stay healthy, and be entertained. But products that (temporarily) address those jobs replace each other all the time.
We must conclude that Jobs-to-Be-Done are solution-agnostic. They focus on needs, desires, activities, and outcomes. They never describe specific products.
In The Jobs to Be Done Playbook, Jim Kalback offers an overview of many Job-to-Be-Done definitions. If you go back to the few definitions of JTBD that I provided earlier, you see that each mentions “circumstance” or “situation”. That’s because context matters.
Sometimes, I want an Uber car. Sometimes, I use a bicycle. Sometimes, I use public transport. Other times, I prefer walking. It all depends on my mood, the weather, the city I’m in, the time I have available, the clothes I’m wearing, the things I’m carrying, the people I’m hanging out with, and so on, and so on.
When you design a customer experience around a product, what matters most is context, not demographics. It would be a mistake to try and create a new product specifically for “middle-aged, white men with master-level education and above-average disposable income”. That’s a demographic that rules out a relatively large portion of society. You will be much more effective when you describe your customers as “people who want to travel across the city and who value speed, convenience, and privacy.” That’s a Job-to-Be-Done. It effectively rules out walking, biking, and public transport, but it doesn’t rule out people!
Demographics can be helpful for advertising. For product design, focus on context.
Functional versus Aspirational
I read a lot of non-fiction books. If you ask me why, I could answer, “because I enjoy reading” (an activity) or “because I look for insights” (an outcome). If you ask me why again, I might answer, “I read to relax” (which is an outcome) or “I need insights for making courses and keynotes” (which is an activity). When asking me why several times more, we see that the higher job levels are increasingly motivational, emotional, and aspirational. They might include Jobs-to-Be-Done such as “feeling zen”, “creating a legacy”, “being famous”, etc.
A problem with such higher-order Jobs-to-Be-Done is that they are abstract and hard to achieve. What products would help someone to feel zen or be famous?
You could also ask me how I get to pick and read business books. I might answer with references to GoodReads and Amazon, the Kindle app, Roam Research, and Nimbus Notes. My answers reveal multiple products that cover various lower-level activities and outcomes such as “finding options for reading”, “checking quality and popularity”, “taking notes about learnings”, and “organizing my notes for new insights”. These lower-level Jobs-to-Be-Done are increasingly mundane and functional.
But the issue with these lower-order jobs is that they’re always temporarily done. There’s always a next book to read. More notes to take. New insights to generate!
Your challenge as a product creator is to figure out at what level of abstraction you should innovate. And there is no rule for that. It depends entirely on you. What do you want to become as a business?
For example, in the last ten years or so, many car manufacturers have decided that they’re no longer in the business of making and selling cars. They are in the business of mobility! They went up the hierarchical ladder of jobs to design alternative products and services, which might include rented vehicles, self-driving cars, or even flying machines. In Lean Startup language, changing to a higher-level job is a Zoom-Out pivot. It is more aspirational.
But it’s also possible to go down the hierarchy of jobs. One example could be Valve, which initially produced and sold games such as Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Nowadays, most of Valve’s income is from their Steam platform, which grew out of their need to release and update their games. They now offer that same job to many other games companies. Lean Startuppers would say the focus to a lower-level job would be a Zoom-In pivot. It is more functional.
In Barcelona, I paid for the Segway tour once and then enjoyed a city trip that lasted several hours. It was a one-time experience. But the consumption of a product is often not a one-time thing. Fourteen years ago, I paid for a car, which was a rather significant transaction. I have been using that car ever since (not counting expenses for fuel, maintenance, and taxes). With Uber, it’s the other way around: signing up to their service costs nothing. Payments are only due when you take some rides.
Several experts refer to these as the Big Hires and the Little Hires. The Big Hire is the primary transaction, the moment of purchase and signing up, which gives you access to the product. The Little Hire is the actual usage of that product. For a new apartment, the Big Hire is BIG, and the Little Hires are small and endless. For an hour in a motel, the Big Hire and Little Hire are the same things.
Other JTBD proponents go a bit further. A job can be just one step in a sequence of jobs inside a higher-level job. You can define the individual steps within each job as a customer journey. This journey might include finding a product, purchasing it, preparing for usage, its actual use, maintaining the product, and so on. Each step in the journey is a bit of an experience and a way to narrow the happiness gap.
It is critical to understand that a customer’s experience with a product extends from first awareness until its retirement. Many companies only notice and measure the Big Hires (the actual purchase), and they tend to optimize only that. They forget that finding, evaluating, maintaining, modifying, servicing, and retiring a product is also part of the experience. And that could be a big mistake. There are Jobs-to-Be-Done across the entire product lifecycle.
Some job steps to consider: awareness of the happiness gap, commitment to close the gap, finding options for products, evaluating the options, selecting one product, acquiring the product, preparing the product for use, using the product, changing the product, monitoring the happiness gap, servicing the product, replacing the product, retiring the product, disposing of the product.
Apart from job steps, there can also be distinct job roles.
When I purchase some ice cream, I am the buyer, approver, reviewer, consumer, and (depending on the ice cream parlor), the technical supporter. When it comes to ice cream, I like to do everything myself. This is quite common with B2C products.
It’s very different in B2B environments. The person who buys office equipment for employees is often not the one reviewing or approving it. And the performers (end users) and technicians (service and support) are yet again other people.
When creating Job-to-Be-Done descriptions, it is usually best to start with the role of the end-user, followed by the buyer. But don’t forget the others! You might want to consider creating separate job statements and templates for people in different roles. You won’t get far offering only end-users a great experience and then leaving all kinds of problems to solve for the buyers, approvers, and everyone else.
Some job roles to consider: end-user, reviewer, approver, buyer, manager, cleaner, technical supporter.
With every Job-to-Be-Done, perhaps the most crucial thing to consider is the competition. What are the alternative ways in which people can close the gap between their situation and their expectation? How else can they get the job done?
In Barcelona, my Job-to-Be-Done was to enjoy Barcelona with my kids and to be a great dad. One afternoon, I hired a tour guide with Segways to achieve that. For me, the Segways were not just a transport device. Its competitors were not bicycles, the metro, or Uber cars. Instead, the Segway city tour competitors were the zoo, various museums, the Sagrada Familia, and Parc Güell. Even strolling along La Rambla was a competitor.
The competition for your product is not the other products in the same product category. The competition is anything else people can do to get the job done.
“We compete with everything you do to relax. We compete with video games. We compete with drinking a bottle of wine. That’s a particularly tough one! We compete with other video networks. Playing board games.” – Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix
Sometimes, your competition is another very similar product. Other times, your competition is entirely different, maybe just a workaround that helps someone do the job. The coffee bars in my town don’t just compete with each other. They also compete with the espresso machine I have in my kitchen. And tea. And my lounge chair. And the city library. (Can you guess the Job-to-Be-Done?)
People don’t simply switch from one solution to another at the snap of a finger. There are four “forces” at work that influence the chance of someone adopting a new behavior. For example, right now, I am considering a switch from one supermarket app to another.
- Need – The pain and problems of the current solution, fueled by that person’s needs, pushes them closer to adopt a different product. (My current supermarket service offers no luxury products. They have an inventory of rather basic commodities.)
- Desire – The perceived gain and attraction of the new solution, fueled by that person’s desires, pulls them closer toward the other product. (My friend suggested I use another supermarket app that offers high-end and specialty groceries.)
- Inertia – The person’s current habits and familiarity with the current solution keep them stuck in their existing behaviors. (My current app is user-friendly; the service is reliable, and it has my entire shopping history, making reorders very easy.)
- Anxiety – The person’s uncertainty about changing to another solution also holds them right where they are. (I’m not sure if the other service is just as good; the minimum required order value is higher, and what if they don’t have my favorite products?)
The customer has to fire something to hire something else. Many product creators forget this. You need to be aware of the competing behaviors that your customers will have to cancel. On top of that, you have two “silent competitors”. It’s not enough to focus only on needs and desires. What can you do about inertia and anxiety?
Finding a Job-to-Be-Done
Those who follow me on social media may have noticed that I like coffee. In every city that I visit, I always want to know the best coffee places. However, if you watch what I do, you will sometimes find me going into a Starbuck, Espresso House, Coffee Fellows, Caffè Nero, Costa Coffee, or other coffee house chain. Why? Because they are often open until 9 or 10 pm and they have a place for me to sit and work for an hour or two. I have been to some of the trendiest barista cafes in the world where guests with computers were not even welcome!
In Design Thinking, they say you must empathize with your customers. In Lean Startup, they say you must get out of the building. The Job-to-Be-Done community agrees and says you must observe customers and talk with them about their needs, desires, context, and alternative solutions. Standard market research often doesn’t reveal the opportunities that are waiting for you to find. Customers say one thing, but they do something else. And customer data tells you what people do, but it doesn’t tell you why.
“No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it.” – Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Customers are usually not able to articulate their Job-to-Be-Done. They can talk endlessly about existing products and services and what they like and dislike about them. Even when they do describe their needs and desires, their actual behaviors can tell another story. It’s up to you to then dig deeper and figure out what drives them. It’s your job to identify a happiness gap that could be closed. And don’t forget to study the non-customers! What are their problems? What are their hopes? What have they tried? What have they considered?
I’m sure Costa Coffee can match my coffee orders with my credit card. How useful is that? It doesn’t tell them that I prefer a seat next to a power socket to charge my computer.
Insights from customer interviews and observations are more like customer stories than customer statistics. To discover a Job-to-Be-Done that’s worth making a product for, put on your detective’s hat and find the patterns.
In the preceding paragraphs, I described all components of my Job-to-Be-Done Canvas. Go ahead. Compare it with other JTBD templates out there and tell me what you think.
I think no product team should start building and delivering anything without fully understanding the Job-to-Be-Done. You can use this template as a guide in customer interviews, customer observation, and customer analysis to find out how to close the happiness gap for your customers.
Objectives and Metrics
When you have one or more Jobs-to-Be-Done, you have a great starting point for your next Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). As you probably know, we prefer outcome-oriented metrics. The best metrics capture the results that customers care about: closing the happiness gap.
The problem is that operational data is much easier to obtain. We all drown in numbers that broadcast our productivity and our output. Sadly, it’s far easier for managers to measure and manage operations rather than the actual Job-to-Be-Done. It’s easy to know the number of coffees sold. It’s much harder to see if I ever want to return to the coffee house. (For some cafes that are too noisy to work, my answer is likely No!)
For example, Amazon wants to know when orders are delivered, not when they are shipped. The better SaaS vendors monitor usage statistics and not merely recurring revenue. Artists prefer to understand how often people played their music, not just how often it was sold. And you, too, should measure if you’re helping people to close the happiness gap. If you want to stay in business, the Little Hires are just as important as the Big Hires. The entire customer experience counts.
We’re almost there! It’s time to wrap it all up.
Jobs-to-Be-Done are not only input for OKRs. They are also quite relevant as a guiding force for an organization’s structure. Successful companies optimize their value streams around the Jobs-to-Be-Done and the experiences that they want customers to have. Your organization has a competitive advantage when it can quickly adapt to unique processes and structures to perform the customer’s job.
Form follows function. Therefore, the organizational structure follows the Jobs-to-Be-Done.
Closing the gap is the job. Doing the job is the value stream. When you validated a customer’s job, you found a crucial organizing principle for the internal structure of your business.
And now, I’ll have another coffee.
“Perfectly satisfying someone’s job likely requires not just creating a product, but engineering and delivering a whole set of experiences that address the many dimensions of the job and then integrating those experiences into the company’s processes.” – Clayton Christensen
The Job-to-Be-Done Canvas is part of The Versatile Organization workshop. I offer this model to teams and organizations to help with their self-improvement, lean-agile transformation, and customer engagement efforts. A PDF download of the template is available for all free members of Shiftup.