Business success comes from understanding human needs and motivations. Explore the essentials of the Jobs To Be Done framework for customer-centric business success.

Jobs To Be Done (“JTBD”) helps you to better understand what drives your customers’ behaviours and how they make choices so you have a higher probability of creating a solution customers truly demand.

JTBD is not a single method but a lens, a way of seeing. JTBD thinking helps you step back from obsessing about what new features and benefits you should add to your products and services. And to step into thinking about what is motivating your customers to make progress on a given objective in a specific context i.e. to shift from inside-out to outside-in thinking.

Ultimately JTBD seeks to make innovation more predictable and reliable and ensure product market fit from the outset and on-going.

In my previous essay (What Is The ‘Jobs To Be Done’ Theory And Why It Is A Game-Changer? (Part 1)), I introduced you to the groundbreaking concept of JTBD and its transformative potential. Now, in this second instalment, we dive deeper into JTBD, exploring its principles and core elements that can revolutionise the way you understand and serve your customers.

There are many techniques that fall under the JTDB umbrella which help companies in multiple areas – market segmentation, product road maps, marketing messaging etc .. (check out my other essay on JTBD for more details on the benefits) – but they all share common principles. 

Let’s take a look at these common principles. 

JTBD Principles

Principle One – People Hire Your Product To Get A Job Done Not To Interact With Your Company

The job or demand exists whether or not there is a solution or the customer knows about the solution. JTBD focuses on the relationships people have with achieving their own objectives not the relationships with your company or your solution. 

Principle Two – JTBD Focuses On The Demand-Side Perspective 

JTBD is an outside-in mindset versus the more common inside-out mindset i.e. the demand-side rather than the supply-side.  

Supply is what you do as a company, demand is the customer. When you talk to customers from a supply-side lens – which is what most companies do – you speak from the product point of view and try to find out what they like about the solution. 

We need to ask the customer multiple questions to get to the root of the progress they are trying to make.

“I need a drill because I want a hole.”

“I need a hole because I want to put a screw into the wall.”

“I need a screw in the wall because I want to hang up a framed photo.”

“I want a photo on the wall of my study to make it feel more warm and welcoming.”

So maybe I don’t need a drill at all but a simple and quick way of hanging a frame on the wall (and by the way I do!) or something else altogether to create the right ambience in my study.

When you take a demand-side approach you focus on understanding what is causing people to buy or hire your product or service. You are looking at the world from the buyer’s point of view. It’s understanding value from the customer side of the world. It’s about stepping into people’s lives and understanding what progress people want to make. 

You need both the supply side and demand side to make a business work. But too often the bias is too much on the supply-side resulting in products and services which don’t address the problems customers want to solve.  

As Bob Moesta says, “Supply does not create demand; demand is there whether supply sees it or not.”

Principle Three – Jobs Are Stable Over Time Even As The Solution Changes

JTBD are largely independent of the solutions out there including technology advances. Solutions and technology come and go but the job to be done usually remains the same. 

JTBD (should) have a long shelf life.

For example, a JTBD for university students is to find student accommodation. In the past, you might have had to go up to the city and knock on the door of local estate agents but now you could go onto platforms like Housemates to find a place to stay. Different means to the end, but the same end or JTBD – find student accommodation.

Principle Four – People Hire Services In Order To Get More Of The The Job Done Quicker and Easier

People are not loyal to companies or brands. They are loyal to getting a job done better (faster, more predictably and with higher output/throughput) and/or more cheaply. People replace existing products with those that help them achieve these goals. 

Each JBTD has an essential quality to it or things it must do. If the job gets done well (i.e. quicker and easier) we tend to ‘hire’ it again and if not we ‘fire’ it and look for an alternative. In the milkshake example if it was no longer thick enough to last 20 minutes you might fire the milkshake. 

The key aspect here is that it’s the customer’s definition of quality, not yours. The world is full of innovations that offer benefits and features which excite the creators but which the customer ignores or rejects. 

Whether we end up ‘hiring’ something comes down to how well the trade-offs (see below) match what we consider a quality solution. We typically apply a number of criteria when evaluating the suitability of potential solutions for a job. It might be cost, convenience, ease of use or integration with current habits. 

We will only switch to a new solution if it enables us to get the job done better and/or quicker according to our quality criteria. 

A great innovation solves problems that previously had inadequate, or no solution.

Principle Five – Everything Comes With A Trade-Off

Everything comes with a trade-off. You can’t always get exactly what you want. 

As Steve Jobs said: 

“Every single product is a package of emphasis – we choose not to do this or that – customers pay us to make those choices in a solution, if they like the choices we make they will buy them, if they don’t like them, they don’t.”

What are you prepared to give up to achieve your goal?

Maybe you prefer an egg mayonnaise and bacon sandwich for breakfast. But that will be hard to eat whilst driving, it does little to mitigate the boring commute and it might leave you hungry mid-morning. 

For innovators, you need to figure out the must-haves for the customer – the non-negotiables. The thickness of the milkshake vs the healthiness. It’s the thickness that matters, the convenience of drinking through a straw and the fact that it keeps them full throughout the morning. Not how healthy it is.  

Principle Six – Making The Job The Unit Of Analysis 

By shifting the focus to the main job customers are trying to achieve, JTBD provides a stable foundation for innovation. Instead of the moving target of ever-evolving product features or market trends, companies can anchor their innovation strategies on consistent and enduring jobs that customers are trying to get done. This approach, in turn, makes innovation much less hit-and-miss, much more predictable and more likely to succeed. 

Core Elements Of JBTD

One core strength of JTBD is the way it identifies the various aspects of customers achieving their objectives. The who, what, how, why and when/where are analysed individually giving both accuracy and flexibility to JTBD applications.

According to Jim Kalbach in his book, The Job To Be Done Playbook, there are five core elements to JTBD. 

  1. Job performer (who) – the user of the main job
  2. Hiring (what) – what the performer wants to achieve
  3. Process (how) – the process of how the job will get done
  4. Needs (why) – the measure of success as you get the job done (which gives you insight into why people behave in specific ways)
  5. Circumstances (when + where) – the context around the job getting done

#1 Job Performer – Who

The job performer is the person who actually does or executes the job – the user.

It’s important to differentiate between the performer and the buyer. 

Sometimes the parent might buy something but the child is a user e.g. a toy (although I’ve always liked buying toys that I would enjoy playing with too!). But usually in a B2C context the performer and buyer are the same person. 

This distinction is particularly important in a B2B context. The performer and buyer are often different people. And beyond these two functions, you might have others to consider:

  • Approver – approves the purchase of the solution e.g. parent or leader
  • Reviewer – reviews whether the solution is the right one 
  • Technician – a person who onboards the solution and gets it working
  • Manager – someone who oversees the job performer while doing the job
  • Audience – a person who benefits from the output of the job e.g. client

Map out the different functions in a diagram like this shown below.

The functions are not job titles. They are different players within the context of getting the job done.

Every function has different needs that should be considered but the primary focus should always be on the job performer and their needs.

#2 Hiring Reasons – What

When we buy something we essentially ‘hire’ it to do a job.

Jobs are never just about function.

There are three reasons why a customer may hire your service or product.

  • Functionalthe practical use. It might be you are looking for an energy boost, to quench your thirst or as in the milkshake example, keep you full until lunch. The functional aspect may be split into a main job and related jobs
  • Emotionala feeling you want or want to avoid. Like feeling less bored during the commute
  • Socialhow you want to engage with or be perceived by other people. The morning milkshake helps you be in a better mood when collaborating with colleagues

Jobs are often complex and multifaceted. It is likely you are not looking to get one narrow job done – it’s a whole bundle of related jobs. 

But there is likely to be a main job which is the job performer’s main objective – it’s important to start off with figuring out the main job as this is the north star for all the other JBTD elements. For example, a main job might be ‘plan the annual event’, and related jobs might be ‘communicate the company’s vision’ and ‘meet new team members face to face’.

When you are defining your main job don’t mention the solution or what technology you are going to use. Don’t include adjectives or metrics. You also want it to be stable over time – “How would I have got that job done 30 years ago?”  

Start with a verb (plan) then have an object (event) and a clarifier (annual).

One way to help define the JTBD is to use a primer such as “I want to …” or “Help me …” and then when you have drafted the statement drop the primer. 

Having defined your main job you can then layer on the emotional and social aspects – not the other way around.

#3 Process – How

This is essentially how the job performer gets the job done. Typically a job performer will transition through different stages (e.g. beginning, middle and end) as they drive towards achieving the progress they are seeking. And within each stage, there will be specific steps or subjobs (not tasks).

Here is an example of a job process, taken from Jim Kalbach’s book, The Jobs To Be Done Playbook, where the main job is to facilitate a workshop

#4 Needs – Why

The job is the overall objective i.e. the progress someone wants to make or the goal they want to achieve. The need (using Anthony Ulwick’s definition) is the measure of success or success criteria as you get the job done. Needs indicate how well the job is getting (or gets) done. Identifying the needs will give you an insight into why job performers act the way they do while doing the job.

Lance Bettencourt and Anthony Ulwick have defined needs in the article Give Customers A Fair Hearing as desired outcome statements with four elements:

  1. Direction of change – a verb showing the desired change or progress you want to make e.g. “maximise” or “minimise”
  2. Unit of measure – the metric of success such as time, effort, skill or likelihood
  3. Object of the need – the objective of the need e.g. networking with mentors
  4. Clarifier – additional contextual information and/or descriptions of circumstances

Here is an example of a desired outcome statement:

Maximise (Direction of change) the likelihood (Unit of measure) of networking with mentors (Object of the need) in the IT software sector (Clarifier).

#5 Circumstances – Where + When

Jobs are not people or persona or demographic-specific. They are a specific moment in time.

The circumstance or context of the customer is about what’s going on in their life at the moment leading up to and at the time of the purchase. 

In JBTD land there are no impulse buys. Everything is a JTBD.

Circumstances typically consist of aspects around time, manner and place. The circumstances are more important than product features, customer characteristics, new technologies or trends. 

In the milkshake example, the context is that one set of customers bought milkshakes early in the morning, they were on their own, they bought nothing else, they were in a hurry and they got straight back into their cars and drove away to their offices for a 20-minute commute.

Without this context, you will be relying much more on luck in your product design or marketing message. Take out the luck element on product development, understand the circumstance and you will be on the way to understanding causation. 

Conclusion

Embracing the principles of JTBD can be your compass to navigate the turbulent waters of innovation and customer satisfaction. By focusing on what motivates your customers to make progress toward their objectives, rather than just adding new features to products and services, you can make innovation more predictable and reliable. 

JTBD offers a lens through which you can see the world from your customers’ perspective, shifting your approach from inside-out to outside-in.

Remember, JTBD is not a single method but a holistic way of thinking that can reshape your business strategies. Whether you’re working on market segmentation, product roadmaps, or marketing messaging, the principles of JTBD apply. They help you anchor your efforts on the stable foundation of what truly matters to your customers.

As you delve into the principles and elements of JTBD, keep in mind that understanding the “why” behind your customers’ actions is the key to unlocking their desires. By focusing on the jobs they want to get done, you can create solutions that customers genuinely demand, ensuring long-lasting product-market fit. JTBD isn’t just a theory; it’s a practical approach to making your business thrive in an ever-changing landscape.
If you would like to learn more about JTBD and how it can apply to you, reach out to me here or email me at mark@fittolead.net.