How to identify and describe your customers’ “Job To Be Done” using a Job Outline

Edited excerpt from Filling in Lean’s Gaps by Alan Klement; it builds on and assumes knowledge of Clayton Christensen’s Job To Be Done:

The Job Outline serves two purposes: (1) It’s a high level guide on how to research customers and what to look for. (2) It’s a succinct document to get everyone involved with the product thinking the same way. It has four parts:

1. Exposition. In story telling (narratives) it often helps to introduce background information which sets the stage before the main plot begins so the audience can quickly understand the context in which everything happens. The same is true for product design. When creating an exposition for a product, consider the dry facts of the situation. Briefly explain the who, what, when and where, but not the why. The goal is to make sure everyone knows the context of the customer’s struggle.

2. Observation. Identify two things: (1) The pre-existing behaviors customers do now and have done in the past. (2) The purchases which customers make and have made in the past. Watch what customers are doing now. It can be visual (physically watching customers), technical (data metics) and general research.

3. Situational Analysis. Explain the challenges customers’ are facing and what is pulling and pushing them to and from different solutions. Then, describe their anxieties and motivations.

4. Job To Be Done. This is not a solution, but a way of thinking about what the solution should accomplish. It’s not a shot in the dark hypothesis, but rather the result of deep thinking and a coalescing of research. A good Job To Be Done will begin with the context the customer is in (Exposition), apply the observations of pre-existing human behaviors (Observation), reduce, or eliminate, the customer’s anxieties and resolve their motivations (Situational Analysis).

(1) A common challenge for product managers is that we know we should ask customers questions and listen to their feedback, but it often feels like we’re groping in the dark with no clear direction. Alan’s Job Outline solves this problem by providing a clear goal and framework for customer development questions: you’re trying to discover the Job To Be Done.
(2) Figuring out the Job To Be Done is vastly harder if your product tries to address multiple needs. For example, Seeking Alpha PRO addresses three Jobs To Be Done (it helps stock pickers find investment ideas, research stocks, and track potentially important analysis of stocks they own). The solution is to focus on one Job To Be Done at a time, starting with what you believe is the most valuable. You might find that you need separate products for separate Jobs To Be Done.
(3) Focusing on a Job To Be Done removes the need to specify who your target customer is, because your target customer is anyone who needs to get this job done. If you discover that there are different jobs to be done, for example Clay Christensen’s example of a milkshake to provide breakfast on a commute and a milkshake to provide a treat for a child, you’ll likely find you have different types of customers.
(4) What questions should you ask your target customers to help complete this Job Outline? See Seven questions to uncover user goals and needs.

7 thoughts on “How to identify and describe your customers’ “Job To Be Done” using a Job Outline

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