A Product Manager Learns 3 Important Lessons @ Jobs-to-be-Done

I just learned about Jobs-to-be-Done Theory. If you don't know about Jobs, I'm going to save you a lot of grief and explain the basics to your now. 

You can also listen to Episode 22 of the Podcast, where I go into Jobs in more detail with guest Brian Rhea.

The fundamental premise of JTBD is that customers don't buy products, they hire them to do a job and the execution of that job helps them make progress in an area of their life. As Theodore Levitt said in the 1960s, "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole."

Stop studying the product and instead study the job that people are trying to get done.

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Three Important Lessons from JTBD

If you only learn three things about Jobs, they should be these three things.

1. Context is more important than Personas

Personas are useful for branding and demographic ad targeting, so I'm not dismissing personas altogether, but let's take an example from Brian Rhea's JTBD course for a moment and consider this example: 


(Example borrowed this example from Brian Rhea's JTBD short email course.)

What is Rachel doing for dinner tonight?

The Personas Approach:

Rachel is 40 years old, drives a Subaru, has a bachelor's degree, lives in Boulder, CO, and makes between $90k - $110k. 

JTBD Approach:

Rachel is on her way to pick up her 7 year-old at climbing practice, making some quick returns at a nearby store right afterward, and dropping her 10 year-old at Girl Scouts before finally heading home.

Which methodology better equips you to better answer the question, What is Rachel doing for dinner tonight?

The Jobs approach provides more context and better equips us to fill Rachel's need for a quick, time-bound, convenient dinner for her and her kids.

2. Job Stories vs. User Stories

According to JTBD theory, the problem with user stories is that they don't ask why the user wants to do something.

Here's how JTBD.info explains the problem with user stories: 

User Story.JPG


In contrast, a Jobs story focuses on context and causality. Here is the format, according to JTBD.info:

JTBD User Story.JPG


3. Forces of Progress

Have you ever wondered why better products don't always win bigger market share?

Behold, the Forces of Progress. 

In order to pull a customer towards to switch to a new product (or service), the user's anxiety has to be greater than their reluctance to change their current habit.

A great example of this is changing cell phone service providers. Verizon might be hitting you hard with a lower rate offer and better coverage, but you've had your T Mobile phone number since high school and it just seems like switching is going to be a huge pain in the ass. So you stick with T Mobile, even though you know Verizon is better. 

Borrowed from  Brian Rhea 's JTBD email course.

Borrowed from Brian Rhea's JTBD email course.

Listen to Our Jobs-to-be-Done Podcast Episode:

Further Reading: 

  • Sign up for Brian Rhea's extremely short (and free!) email course about JTBD and how to conduct JTBD customer interviews. (Scroll to the bottom of this page.) 
  • Read Cindy Alvarez's book Lean Customer Development
  • Clayton M. Christensen's new(er) book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice