The Lean Startup approach has brought a lot of visibility to the importance of getting out of your office and interacting with actual customers. And you do that so you can understand the details of their problems related to the solution or product you envision as a product manager and innovator.
However, accomplishing this brings up questions like: who do we talk with, what do we ask them, and what information is most important. The practical answers to all these questions is in a framework called Jobs-to-be-Done. When used properly, it positions product managers to greatly increase the success of the products they develop – because the products are solving a real job the customer has in a way the customer recognizes as being most valuable to them and easiest to choose.
To learn about this framework, I went to the source – the person who runs the website http://Jobstobedone.org, which has the support of Clayton Christensen, who was one of the original creators of the framework. This person is Chris Spiek. Chris is a software programmer who discovered the Jobs-to-be-Done framework and used it to create successful software products customers loved. He has also been a founder and co-founded his current company, the Re-Wired Group, which is a firm based in Michigan that creates improved products and new products for their clients by applying Jobs-to-be-Done.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- Your background is in software development. What took you from that to product management? I was involved in custom software development. Customers often pushed for more features, making negotiations and managing scope creep very challenging. I realized I needed to learn more about what the customers of my customer really needed. That led me to learning about customer personas, big data, and more. At the same time, I started doing work for Bob Moesta, who was one of the co-creators, along with Clay Christensen, of the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework. His specifications for products were a bit different from what everyone else was doing, yet they were always wildly successful. In 2008 Bob and I started the Rewired Group to apply, refine, and teach the JTBD framework.
- You tell people that “you develop great products that people want to buy using Jobs-to-be-Done.” How do you describe JTBD? It’s a way of gaining an understanding of how someone decides to purchase something new. For example, think about the last product you purchased and ask: what was your motivation to make the purchase, what was your thought process, and how did your opinions change over time? At its core, it is a framework for thinking about how purchasing decisions are made. An example is buying a shovel to dig a hole. If you are the product manager trying to sell more shovels, the traditional approach is to think about what would make the customer love your shovel more. This might lead to different colors, lighter-weight materials, etc. Instead, JTBD prompts us to change the perspective and ask why the customer needs to dig a hole and what are the other ways this could be accomplished. This leads to realizing that the shovel is not competing with other shovels at the hardware store but with other ways of getting a hole dug.
- How are jobs identified? Can you walk us through an example using JTBD – who was interviewed, what questions were asked, what was discovered? One of the first applications was for the Snickers candy bar. The Snickers bar was competing head-to-head with Milky Way. Both were Mars’ products, similar to each other, and one was going to be retired. Bob Moesta was asked to help the Snickers’ product team. Bob ended up talking with people who purchased Snickers and people who purchased Milky Ways, asking them about the purchase and why they chose the bar they did. He heard very different stories. Those buying Snickers were looking for something filling that would give them energy. Those buying Milky Ways were looking for an indulgence during a short break. That led the Snickers’ product team to reformulate the bar to be more food-like and change the advertising to be “Snicker Satisfies.” After that, Snickers became the highest-selling candy bar of all time.
- How is the 4 Forces tool useful to finding jobs? This is one of the JTBD tools and describes how a consumer makes a switch and tries to make progress in their lives. On the left side of the diagram are the forces that prevent change – consumers continue doing what they have done in the past. Crossing over to the right side of the diagram indicates a new behavior – buying something they have not tried before. The forces help us understand why consumers make the decisions they do. Two forces are at work to encourage the change, (1) push of the situation and (2) magnetism of the new solution. At the same time, forces are discouraging the change, (3) anxiety of the new solution, and (4) habit of the present. Many product managers work only with the first two forces, trying to add features to make their solution look more appealing. However, each feature creates anxiety and drives consumers to remain in their current habits. Instead, if product managers can find a way to relieve the anxiety, they will have the market-winning product.
- Jobs-to-be-Done website
- eCourse to learn the JTBD interview technique – go to the JTBD website and click the button at the very top of the page to learn about the eCourse.
- An example interview that demonstrates using JTBD for a car purchase.
- Another example interview demonstrating JTBD for a mattress product.
- Clay Christensen’s Milkshake video, discussing JTBD.
- Chris on Twitter
- Chris’ profile on LinkedIn
“The struggling moment is the seed of innovation.” – Bob Moesta
Listen Now to the Interview
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