Which Methodology Should You “Hire” to Apply Jobs to be Done?

Confused about Jobs to be Done? So was I.

Note: this content was originally published as a five-part series in late 2017. I’ve been asked to consolidate the content into a single post. This is the original content, updates have not been introduced with this new publication.

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Heard about Jobs to be Done?

Customers don’t care about your product. They care about what it helps them do.

The product in question? The ‘right’ approach to surfacing and applying JTBD insights.

Approaches and People


Strategyn’s Outcome-Driven-Innovation (ODI) Process

I first talked to Tony Ulwick about ODI in 2016. I said “oh, so you took JTBD and made it actionable!” Tony was quick to let me know that ODI predated Christensen’s book “The Innovator’s Solution”.

Rewired Group’s “Switch Interviews”.

If you’ve ever seen an offer to ‘learn how to run a JTBD interview’, you’re probably learning a technique developed by the Detroit-based Rewired Group. They hold in-person workshops and there’s also an online video training series to help people learn how to conduct Switch interviews.

  • understand when to accept what a consumer is saying as fact, and when to challenge, and
  • why consumer satisfaction is important, but it fails us when we’re developing new products.


Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and author published “The Innovator’s Dilemma (1998),” “The Innovator’s Solution (2003)” and “Competing Against Luck (2016)”. These books introduced the concepts of disruptive innovation and Jobs Theory.

Selling Jobs to be Done: Who’s the Customer?
  • Improve the product for our customers so they will churn less (UX Director)
  • Cultivate a shared understanding of our customer across the organization so we are more effective in creating and selling products (CEO)
  • Identify adjacent areas where our customers are dissatisfied to introduce new products to our portfolio so we can improve our ARPU and stickiness (Intrapreneur)
Defining the “Job” in Jobs to be Done

If you want to apply your understanding of your customers Jobs to be Done to create impactful products and services, you need to know what Jobs are in question. Seems simple, but right off the bat there are some differences in terminology.

Peter Drucker (Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 1985)

  • Process need, unlike the other sources of innovation, does not start out with an event in the environment, whether internal or external. It starts out with the job to be done.
  • It is task-focused rather than situation-focused. It perfects a process that already exists, replaces a link that is weak, redesigns an existing old process around newly available knowledge.

Clay Christensen (The Innovator’s Solution, 2003)

  • Customers — people and companies — have “jobs” that arise regularly and need to get done.
  • When customers become aware of a job that they need to get done in their lives, they look around for a product or service they can ‘hire’ to get the job done
  • Their thought processes originate with an awareness of needing to get something done, and then they set out to hire something or someone to do the job as effectively, conveniently and inexpensively as possible.
  • The functional, emotional and social dimensions of the jobs that customers need to get done constitute the circumstances that they buy.
  • The jobs that customers are trying to get done or the outcomes that they are trying to achieve constitute a circumstance-based categorization of markets.
  • Companies that target their products at the circumstances in which customers find themselves, rather than at the customers themselves, are those that can launch predictably successful products. Put another way, the critical unit of analysis is the circumstance, and not the customer.

Tony Ulwick (What Customers Want, 2005)

  • There are three different types of jobs that customers are often trying to get done in a given circumstance: functional jobs and personal and social jobs (two types of emotional jobs).
  • Functional jobs define the tasks people seek to accomplish, personal jobs explain the way people want to feel in a given circumstance, and social jobs clarify how people want to be perceived by others.

Clay Christensen (Article: Finding the Right Job for Your Product, 2007)

  • A job is the fundamental problem a customer needs to resolve in a given situation.
  • Products don’t engender emotions. Situations do.
  • To provide the complete set of functional, emotional and social experiences in purchase and use that will sum up to nailing the job perfectly, the situation — rather than the customer — must be the fundamental unit of marketing analysis.

Tony Ulwick (Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice, 2016)

  • People buy products and services to get a job done. The job the end user is trying to get done is the core functional job.
  • The core functional job is the anchor around which all other needs are defined. It is defined first, then the emotional, related and consumption chain jobs are defined relative to the core functional job.
  • Leave emotional and other needs out of it. When defining the core functional job make sure it is defined as a functional job, not as a hybrid functional/emotional/social job. A functional job does not have social and emotional dimensions. The emotional and social jobs related to the core functional job are defined in a series of separate emotional job statements.
  • A job is stable; it doesn’t change over time
  • A job has no geographic boundaries
  • A job is solution agnostic

Clay Christensen (Competing Against Luck, 2016)

  • A job is the progress that an individual seeks in a given circumstance
  • Jobs are never simply about the functional — they have important social and emotional dimensions, which can be even more powerful than functional ones
  • Jobs to be Done are ongoing and recurring. They’re seldom discrete “events”

Jim Kalbach (Mapping Experiences, 2016)

  • The concept of Jobs to be Done provides a lens through which to understand value creation.
  • The framework looks at customer motivations in business settings.
  • Jobs to be done are ultimately about an underlying need and desired outcomes.
  • Viewing value creation in this way shifts focus from the psycho-demographic aspects of individuals to their goals and motivations. It’s not about the user but about usage.
  • The context of the job is critical to understand.
  • Jobs to be done is an existing framework that helps view value from an individual’s standpoint. The practice looks at why people “hire” products and services to reach a desired outcome.

Jim Kalbach (Article: A Practical Model for Jobs To Be Done (JTBD), 2016)

  • The context of the job is also part of the model. (Situation, Motivation and Desired Outcomes)
  • Jobs theory sees people as goal-driven actors.
  • The job is really about progress toward a goal.
  • The JTBD approach shows causality — why they behave the way they do.
  • Jobs to be Done can be used to 1. Understand the Market, 2. Design for the Market, 3. Talk to the Market, 4. (Re)define Markets.

Alan Klement* (When Coffee and Kale Compete, 2016)

  • A Job is one’s emotional struggle to make life better.
  • It’s Done when one finds the right solution to overcome that struggle and make that better life happen.
  • A JTBD is purely emotional. Tasks, activities, or functionality describes solutions for Jobs.
  • A JTBD should describe demand only — why consumers would want to consumer (sp) a product, service or technology
  • Most product purchases are not to fulfill a JTBD
  • If I’m buying and using the same types of products I’ve always used, I’m executing habits.
  • If I’m executing a habit, I’m not interested in progress. I have no JTBD.
  • “Get from A to B” is not a JTBD.
  • A JTBD explains why I changed my historical use of the market. I used to own a car but then I switched to Uber. Why? I desired change.
The Struggle and the Opportunity!

Identifying the Struggle

Desired Outcome Statements

In the Outcome-Driven Innovation process (that focuses on core functional jobs), it’s believed that “customers know perfectly well how they measure success when executing a job and are very capable of communicating those metrics.”

Situation Cases

In the 2007 paper “Finding the Right Job for your Product (2007)”, Christensen introduces the idea of creating “Situation Cases” as artifacts after something that strongly resembles a Switch interview.

  1. List the ‘hiring criteria’
  2. List the “job candidates” — other products that were consider to be hired
  3. Create a list of “Help wanted” signs: deficiencies and constraints in current solutions that need to be alleviated to grow the market.

The “Forces of Progress”

The innovators behind the Switch interview technique use the Four Forces diagram to “understand the forces that are at play when a consumer seeks to make progress (by purchasing a product or service).

Segmenting Your Market

Jobs to be Done practitioners all agree that demographic-based personas are a poor way to segment a market. Instead, the customers’ Job to be Done should be considered.

Identifying the Opportunity

Christensen recommends focusing on non-consumers; stating that “competing against non-consumption often offers the biggest source of growth in a world of one-size-fits-all products that do no jobs satisfactorily”. He advises focusing efforts on those potential consumers who are trying to get a job done but are unable to accomplish it because current solutions are too expensive or too complicated. It’s important to note that these aren’t people who don’t have this job, but rather those who are getting it done in an inconvenient, unsatisfying or expensive way.

Jobs to be Done is Just the Beginning

Outcome Driven Innovation Process

The ODI process includes the identifying of unmet needs as but one step along a much more comprehensive process. Proponents of the approach claim that the insights gathered and the corresponding strategy can serve as a roadmap for years. Services include not only research but also marketing strategy, innovation strategy, and pricing and positioning.

Strategyn’s Outcome Driven Innovation Process

Applying Jobs to be Done in a Portfolio Strategy

Developing an understanding of customers’ Jobs to be Done can also serve to drive a product portfolio strategy. This may involve either developing complementary products that help a customer get their entire Job Done better, or competing products that appeal to over- or under-served cutomers.

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Sr UX Specialist with Canada Revenue Agency, former web dev and product person. 🔎 Lifelong learner. Unapologetic introvert. Plant-powered marathoner. Cat mom.

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