Value Target Analysis — Part 2

A Synthesis of Jobs-to-be-Done Approaches

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The Origins and Evolution of Jobs-to-be-Done

The concept of a customer job was popularized in the book The Innovator’s Solution when it was first published 14 years ago (Christensen & Raynor, 2003). Although Christensen credits practitioners Bob Moesta and Rick Pedi for having coined the term “Jobs to be Done” (Christensen, Hall, Dillon, & Duncan, 2016a), this term encapsulates a collection of concepts that have been contributed by many individuals dating back to the late 1960’s.

For instance, marketing professors Chester Wasson and David McConaughy suggested in 1968 that customers don’t buy products, per se. Rather they buy a “bundle of satisfactions” for solving problems and that these satisfactions include physical, emotional, and social dimensions (Wasson & McConaughy, 1968). Similarly, Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt suggested in 1969 that a product itself has no intrinsic value; that people really use products for problem-solving activities (Levitt, 1969). Cognitive scientist Donald Norman suggested in 1988 that individuals use products to “get something done” independent of a solution; that they have goals they want to achieve and that products enable them to execute the steps (process) necessary to achieve those goals. Norman called this model user-centered design (Norman, 1988).

Psychologist Gary Klein suggested in 1998 that when a need(s) arises, people build and run simple mental simulations involving an action sequence that delineates how the present (need) transitions them to a desired state or outcome (satisfaction of that need). Further, that people have criteria they use to evaluate the efficacy of a mental simulation. Klein call this naturalistic decision-making (Klein, 1998). We suggest that the contributions made by all of the aforementioned, as well as others not mentioned here, helped pave the way for Ulwick’s breakthrough concept of the “customer value model,” which he and Bettencourt later developed into the Job Map methodology. The job Map and the associated value metrics put innovation on a scientific track (Ulwick, 2005; Bettencourt & Ulwick, 2008).

Thus, we would like to make it clear that 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 many practitioners and academics. This includes those who have shaped aspects of Jobs Theory indirectly through their respective fields in economics, management, and psychology such as Joseph Schumpeter (creative destruction), Peter Drucker, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (Prospect Theory), Donald Norman, and Gary Klein to mention a few. The confluence of all these concepts has formed the tenets upon which Jobs-to-be-done is built upon today. The development of Jobs Theory and its practical application to entrepreneurship and innovation is on-going.

A review of the academic and practitioner literature reveals two contemporary definitions of Jobs Theory suggested by Christensen (2016b) and (Ulwick, 2017). We put forth a third definition based on a demand creation perspective. All three of these definitions are complimentary —

At its heart, Jobs Theory provides a powerful way of understanding the causal mechanism of customer behavior, an understanding that, in turn, is the most fundamental driver of innovation success. Jobs theory explains why customers pull certain products and services into their lives: they do this to resolve highly important, unsatisfied jobs that arise. And this, in turn, explains why some innovations are successful and others are not. Jobs Theory not only provides a powerful guide for innovation, but also frames competition in a way that allows for real differentiation and long-term competitive advantage, provides a common language for organizations to understand customer behavior, and even enables leaders to articulate their company’s purpose with greater precision (Christensen, Hall, Dillon, & Duncan, 2016b).

Jobs-to-be-Done Theory is best defined as a group of principles or tenets that explain how to make marketing more effective and innovation more predictable by focusing on the customer’s job-to-be-done:

  • People buy products and services to get a “job” done.
  • Jobs are functional, with emotional and social components.
  • A Job-to-be-Done is stable over time and solution agnostic.
  • Success comes from making the “job”, rather than the product or the customer, the unit of analysis.
  • A deep understanding of the customer’s “job” makes marketing more effective and innovation far more predictable. (Ulwick, 2017)

In our view, the Theory of Jobs-to-be-Done is based on a number of tenets that together explain why individuals and organizations choose to hire certain solutions to get jobs done and why they fire other solutions:

  • A job is defined as the necessary action (job action), either direct and/or via a provider, required to obtain or achieve desired results and to avoid unwanted results (success outcomes).
  • Any individual or organization trying to get a job done is a job executor.
  • Job executors get jobs done by means of job solutions — combinations of provider and/or non-provider resources that together enable them to take the necessary job action to achieve their success outcomes.
  • All jobs are currently getting done with some kind of job solution (a solution-in-use).
  • Job executors make progress to the extent that a solution-in-use enables both efficient and effective job action.
  • The circumstance surrounding getting a job done can cause job executors to struggle to make desired progress. When this happens, job executors want more value from solutions-in-use to resolve the moments of struggle that prevent them from getting a job done well.
  • If a job executor can’t get additional value from a solution-in-use, then they are compelled to seek out another solution that will provide that additional value.
  • Ultimately, the struggles or dissatisfactions with solutions-in-use push job executors to search for, evaluate, fire, and hire job solutions.

Jobs Theory provides a lens through which companies and entrepreneurs can precisely determine, and even predict, the value that customers want (and don’t want) from products/services to get jobs done. Understanding this enables providers to offer superior value to customers relative to competing solutions while at the same time minimizing the cost of producing that value.

Argument for a Synthesis of Jobs-to-be-Done Approaches

According to Christensen (2016a), when customers have jobs they want to get done they hire products and services to help them get those jobs done. A “job” is the progress that a person is trying to make under a particular set of circumstances, where progress represents movement towards a goal or aspiration. Christensen (2016a) also suggests that “a job is always a process to make progress.” Although this implies that there is a process component associated with a customer job, Christensen (2016) does not define or operationalize it.

Instead, Christensen (2016a) focuses on the circumstance that surrounds getting a particular job done (job circumstance) and how this circumstance influences the progress that customers desire. When job circumstance prevents individuals from making desired progress, they become dissatisfied with the solutions they are using (solutions-in-use). If they become dissatisfied enough, they will fire the solution-in-use and hire another solution that can get the job done better (an example of customer choice). For this reason, Christensen (2016a) posits that circumstance is the causal mechanism that ultimately explains customer choice.

To surface the causal mechanisms that drive customer choice, Christensen (2016a) suggests building job stories that integrate the complexities of job circumstance and then clustering these insights into a coherent picture that predicts the value that customers want from solutions. Christensen (2016a) asserts that a job process is rarely a one-time event, implying that individuals are continually striving (by engaging in a process) to achieve their goals and aspirations or to maintain desired states/conditions. Again, Christensen (2016a) implies the existence of a job process component but offers no details as to what a job process is or how it works (not operationalized).

We argue that the job process component must be operating in order for job circumstance to have any effect on an individual’s movement towards their goals and aspirations (results). Like an invisible planet, the process component is there, but for whatever reason, is not operationalized by Christensen (2016a). We posit that individuals must engage in a job process in order to make progress because it’s simply not possible to achieve any kind of result(s) without taking action — either direct action or action via a third-party provider. We suggest that the influence of job circumstance on desired progress is mediated by the job process. Stated another way, job circumstance influences how well an individual can execute a job via the job process component. The dimensions of performance associated with the job process that prevent an individual from making desired progress become problems or “moments of struggle,” also called “dissatisfactions” or “pain points.” These dissatisfactions, in turn, cause individuals to want more value from a solution-in-use to help them resolve these moments of struggle.

If they can’t get more value from the solution-in-use, they will fire that solution and hire another solution that will help them get the job done better (customer choice). We posit, therefore, that the relationship between job circumstance and desired progress cannot be explained without the mediated role of job process. We assert that Jobs Theory would be more useful to practitioners if the job process component were fully operationalized and integrated into a working Jobs Theory framework.

According to Bettencourt (2008), all customer jobs are processes. As such, any job-to-be-done can be decomposed into a series of discrete process steps called a “job map.” Each of these process steps or job steps represent what customers are trying to do as they execute a job. It should be noted that a job map and a customer journey map are not the same thing. A job map delineates the steps that all customers must accomplish to successfully get an entire job done regardless of the solutions they may use to get that job done (Bettencourt, 2010).

In contrast, a customer journey map delineates what customers are doing as they use a particular solution to execute a job. By deconstructing a customer job into discrete job steps or sub processes, it becomes clear what customers want to happen and don’t want to happen at each of those steps as they execute a job. With this understanding, it becomes possible to precisely define the value that customers want at each job step in a way that is free of solutions (Bettencourt, 2008).

Further, a job map provides a stable framework around which customer needs can be identified and defined. Using the structure of the job map, a set of metrics, called “desired outcomes,” can be captured that define how customers want to get a job done at each job step, thereby defining the perfect execution of an entire job from the customer’s point of view. Stated another way, desired outcomes are value metrics that customers use to evaluate success while executing a job (Ulwick, 2005; Ulwick & Bettencourt, 2008).

We argue that the job map and the associated value metrics suggested by (Ulwick, 2016) defines and operationalizes the job process component implied by Christensen (2016a). Having a well-defined structure for the job process component strengthens the Christensen (2016a) approach in at least three ways. First, it provides Jobs Theory practitioners with a best practice (reliable, systematic and repeatable method) for defining a customer job and associated metrics of value. Second, once a job process and value metrics is known for a particular job, practitioners can surface with speed and accuracy the job circumstance that cause individuals to want to hire a certain solution (and perhaps fire another) to get a job done.

Third, making the job process component explicit establishes a predictive relationship between the job process and the customers’ desired progress. This makes it possible for practitioners to determine which steps and associated metrics of value within the job process predict the satisfaction of which goals and aspirations relating to a particular job. This knowledge can be useful because predictive relationships can reveal why desired progress falls short of customer expectations.

We argue that Christensen (2016a) has certain features that can strengthen the Ulwick (2016) approach. First, the Jobs to be Done Needs Framework suggested by Ulwick (2016) is primarily centered around the job process component (a core functional job). There is no concept of desired progress, at least not as Christensen (2016a) conceptualizes it. In alignment with the Christensen (2016a) concept of desired progress, we argue that people execute jobs for the purpose of obtaining or achieving wanted results and avoiding unwanted results. We call these results the customer’s success outcomes for a particular job and they represent job purpose. Success outcomes are satisfied to the extent that wanted results are achieved and unwanted results are avoided — that is, the extent to which desired progress is made. As Christensen (2016a) suggests, these outcomes have functional, social, and emotional dimensions.

The center of gravity for Ulwick (2016) is the job process component (core functional job) and the results that individuals want as they execute each step in getting a job done. These results are the customer’s desired outcomes and they are indicators of successful job execution, or more precisely job action. In contrast, success outcomes indicate the extent to which the purpose of a job is fulfilled. Since desired outcomes indicate specific dimensions of job action performance, they predict the extent to which success outcomes are satisfied. Thus, success outcomes indicate the result(s) that are produced by the entire job process, which are often lagging indicators of job process effectiveness.

Ulwick (2016) does acknowledge job purpose (success outcomes), although he doesn’t explicitly use this term. According to Ulwick (2016), people have emotional jobs, which define how they want to feel or avoid feeling as a result of executing a core functional job. An emotional job appears to be similar to the concept of an emotional success outcome. The problem is that the concept of an emotional job can be confusing to practitioners because it seems to conflate a “job” and a “job purpose”. Ulwick (2016) also suggests that corporate buyers use financial desired outcomes to evaluate the efficacy of competing solutions. In essence, financial desired outcomes are criteria based on success outcomes that buyers want to achieve for an organization. The concept of a financial desired outcome can also be confusing to practitioners since it appears to refer to fulfilling a job purpose(s) for an organization rather than being a measure of job execution success (job process efficacy). Thus, the concept of job purpose is not cohesively fit into the Jobs-to-be-done Needs Framework. Rather, job purpose appears to be ad hoc in the forms of emotional jobs and financial desired outcomes.

We argue that the Christensen and Ulwick perspectives of Jobs Theory are overlapping and complimentary in many respects; that combining key concepts from both perspectives into a single framework fully defines and operationalizes the jobs-to-be-done concept in a way that explicitly defines customer value. We posit that a synthesized approach based on the Christensen and Ulwick models results in a comprehensive and cohesive Jobs Theory framework that would be useful to a broad spectrum of innovation practitioners. We call this synthesized approach the Value Target Framework.

Continue to Part 3: The Value Target Framework


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