The Progress Map

Delineating The Logic Of Progress For A Job To Be Done

A Progress Map delineates the logic of progress for a job to be done and is the first step in performing Value Target Analysis — a methodology for systematically and continually identifying opportunities to maximize the perceived value of a solution while minimizing its cost structure. A Progress Map is universal in nature because it makes no reference to –

Job circumstance — situational and motivating factors relating to job execution or job execution contexts (note: if the context in which a job is executed changes the logic of progress, then it’s a different job).
Job solutions — combinations of products, services and/or other resources that enables job action.

Specifically, a Progress Map –

  • Defines the success outcomes (desired results and unwanted results) that all job executors expect by taking job action (although these may be prioritized differently among job executors).
  • Defines the ideal job process represented by a series of job steps that all job executors must accomplish to obtain or achieve their success outcomes.
  • Defines the customer value metrics that characterize the value customers want when they execute a job (although these may be prioritized differently among job executors).
  • Makes explicit how job action metrics predict success outcomes (the key value indicators).

Because a Progress Map is universal in nature, it is relevant to any individual or organization trying to get that job done regardless of their unique characteristics, attributes, circumstance or the solutions they currently use to get the job done. Delineating the universal logic of progress for a customer job is useful because –

Overlaying a customer job segment onto a completed Progress Map reveals how the customers’ unique job circumstance prevent a job from getting done well or at all.
It enables innovation teams to quickly establish relationships between job circumstance and dissatisfactions with solutions-in-use.
It makes apparent what competitive solutions certain customers may evaluate and ultimately hire to get the job done based on their common job circumstance. Knowing the solutions that your product/service competes with from the customer’s perspective is crucial for guiding innovation efforts.
Download the Progress Map template (PDF)

Progress Map Elements

Job Action Steps — executing any job requires a succession of discrete action steps that together represent the ideal process flow for getting a job done. This differs from a customer journey map that depicts what an individual or customer persona is doing as he/she uses a particular job solution. Job action steps, on the other hand, represent what all job executors must accomplish to successfully execute a job done.

Because it’s easy to confuse activities and tasks associated with solutions with job action steps, we use two validation criteria to distinguish the difference–

  • A job action step must be necessary for any person or organization to successfully execute a job, not just some. If there is a person(s) or organization(s) that does not have to accomplish a step to successfully execute a job, then it does not qualify as a job action step.
  • A job action step must be necessary for all solutions that could be hired to execute a job, not just some solutions. If there is a solution(s) that does not have to accomplish a step to successfully execute a job, then it does not qualify as a job action step.

The core action step generates the customer’s success outcomes. The job steps before the core step represent what must be accomplished to enable the core action step (else the core action step can’t be done). The job steps after the core action step represent what must be accomplished to ensure that the core step was accomplished and can be repeated. Thus, all steps before and after the core action step are subordinate which is why this is called the “core” action step.

Step contenders are potential job action steps. Multiple action step contenders may be proposed before an action step emerges that can meet the two validation criteria.

Customer value metrics (CVMs) are the quantified dimensions of value associated with job action steps and success outcomes that collectively represent the value customers want when they execute a job. As such, customer value metics are the critical aspects of job execution that determine the overall customer experience.

  • Job action CVMs are associated with each job action step and they define value in terms of job action efficiency — the time, effort, and use of resources required to accomplish each step. They are directional metrics expressed as either reducing, minimizing or increasing something relating to job action. For example, “Reduce the time it takes to check out” and “Minimize the time it takes to find the desired item” and “Increase the number of patrols in my neighborhood.” Job action metrics predict the satisfaction of success outcomes.
  • Success outcome CVMs define value in terms of job action effectiveness — the expected functional, emotional and social success outcomes generated by job action. Success outcomes metrics are expressed as occurrences or states that are desired or unwanted. For example, “Avoid getting the flu” (unwanted functional occurrence) and “I feel good about my smile” (desired emotional state) and “I am respected for my expertise” (desired social state) and “I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of my friends when/if..” (unwanted social state). Success outcomes are Key Value Indicators that are predicted by job action metrics. As such, increasing the level of satisfaction for success outcomes can only be done by scaling (in one direction or the other) the job action metrics that predict their satisfaction.

How to Create a Progress Map

The Progress Map template represents a generic and abstract format and is intended as a guide only. It’s best to create a Progress Map on a large white board or wall using different colors and sizes of sticky notes (useful for keeping information limited, mobile, and to indicate relationships). Create your Progress Map in a place where it can be kept safely displayed until Value Target Analysis is complete. Ideally, this location will be suitable to hold customer job interviews and to facilitate discussion with other collaborators. Revise the Progress Map as needed when new information comes to light.

If the aim is to increase the perceived value of an existing product/service, a Progress Map can be created with a small number of customer interviews because the logic of progress for the job is already familiar. You can often create a pro forma Progress Map before talking to customers and then conduct 5–6 customer job interviews to refine the Progress Map. Start by asking, “What job are you trying to get done by using our product/service?”

If the aim is to create a new product/service, the logic of progress for the job to be done is less familiar. In this case, the Progress Map is developed concurrently while conducting customer job interviews. Thirty (30) customer job interviews are recommended for developing value innovation opportunities.

In either case, a Progress Map is an effective way to focus customer job discussions with team members, your company at large, business partners, customers and non-customers on the topics that matter for innovation purposes. Innovation teams are able to quickly elicit the information they need to guide their innovation efforts because they know what information they need. They avoid “fishing” and taking time-consuming detours through the “swamp” of customer job complexity.

General Progress Map Procedure —

  1. Define all functional, emotional and social success outcome metrics (for all job executors).
  2. Define the core action step on the Progress Map required to generate the success outcomes.
  3. Delineate the job steps that must precede the core action step (else core action cannot be accomplished). Then delineate the job steps that must follow the core action step to ensure that the core step has been accomplished and can be repeated.
  4. Define the job action CVMs associated with each job step. Start with the core action step; then the job steps preceding the core step; finally, the job steps that follow the core step. As you are doing this, indicate which job action metrics predict what success outcomes. Indicate these relationships by using the same sticky note colors or using colored dots.

Keep in mind that your goal is to create a universal Progress Map that is free of customer job circumstance and job solutions. As such, the Progress Map will apply to all people and organizations trying to execute the job.

Also note that in reality a customer job typically has between 10 and 15 job action steps, not 8 steps as depicted on this template. Typically, there are between 2 and 5 job action metrics for each job step. The core step can have well over 5 job action metrics depending on the number of success outcomes involved. There are typically between 6 and 20 success outcomes for any job.

Continue to Value Target Analysis — Part 1


The concepts and the application of Jobs Theory suggested in this post is a synthesis of the intellectual contributions of many individuals who have worked and continue to work to develop the jobs-to-be-done body of knowledge — which dates back to the 1930’s (perhaps even earlier). While this body of knowledge is now called “jobs to be done,” and “Jobs Theory,” it represents a confluence of many different concepts developed over the years by practitioners and academics. The development of Jobs Theory and its practical application is ongoing and we can now distinguish different schools of thought around Jobs Theory. More recently, Jobs Theory is moving deeper into innovation dynamics to explain and therefore predict the forces of customer choice or the “forces of progress” (Moesta & Spiek). Although there are many who have shaped Jobs Theory tangentially and indirectly through their respective fields in economics, management, marketing and psychology (Joseph Schumpeter, Peter Drucker, Tversky and Kahneman, Gary Klein, to mention a few), there are those whose seminal work in the area of Jobs Theory need to be acknowledged. Based on my extensive research, and in my opinion, noteworthy seminal contributors to Jobs Theory include Chester R.Wasson (customer use systems applied to consumer behavior), Theodore Levitt (defining the business around customer jobs), Clayton Christensen (job circumstance-based categorization of markets; moving from the jobs to be done concept to “Jobs Theory”; generally bringing broad attention to the practical application of Jobs Theory), Anthony Ulwick (concurrently conceiving of the jobs to be done concept — initially by different names — alongside Christensen, Moesta, and Pedi; the Job to be Done Needs Framework; shifting the voice of the customer -VOC- paradigm to jobs to be done; expanding the practice of jobs to be done as a repeatable and scientific process), Bob Moesta and Rick Pedi (“job to be done” metaphor and convention, early consumer JTBD research); and later Moesta & Spiek (forces of progress that explain switch dynamics). There are those who continue to build upon, extended, clarify, and refine this earlier work in order to make Jobs Theory more accessible and useful to practitioners of innovation. Some of the recent contributors/thought leaders that come to mind include Lance Bettencourt (extending Ulwick’s Jobs to be Done Framework into the service context), Scott Anthony, Mark Johnson (and others from the INNOSIGHT team), Alan Klement (extending and refining the forces of progress approach; and adding the system of progress and vector of progress models), and Stephen Wunker (et. al.). Still, there are many others who have made and continue to contribute to developing Jobs Theory. Thanks to the efforts of the aforementioned and many others not mentioned here, Jobs Theory is finally emerging as a cohesive and comprehensive methodology for identifying and exploiting lucrative innovation opportunities.