Jobs To Be Done Theory

The essence of ‘Jobs To Be Done’ theory is captured nicely in this quote:

people don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.

Market Definition / Needs Analysis / Market Strategy

Markets are often defined around a product or technology for example this could be:

  • LP market
  • CD market
  • MP3 Player market
  • Streaming market

When in reality people buy products to get the job done:

  • Listen to music

Rule 1: The job executor is the primary customer

  • music enthusiast

Rule 2: Define the market as an executor/job

  • music enthusiasts + listening to music

Rule 3: Analyze the job to be done (job map)

  • Define – what the customer is trying to accomplish?
    • we want to: asses the situation
    • we are trying to: “minimize the time it takes to determine how much music will be needed”
  • Locate – gather the inputs necessary to do the job
    • we want to: gather the desired music
    • we are trying to: “minimize the time it takes to determine what songs to include”
  • Prepare  – organize them in some fashion that will make them work together
    • we want to: organize the music
    • we are trying to: “minimize the time it takes to determine in which order to play the songs”
  • Confirm – confirm that everything is in place to make this happen
    • confirm the music plan
  • Execute – execute the job
    • we want to: listen to the music
    • we are trying to: “minimize the likelihood that the music sounds distorted”
  • Monitor – monitor the execution to make sure the job is getting done correctly and the output is right
    • monitor the experience
  • Modify – if it’s not, they make modifications as they go
    • we want to: modify the music selection
    • we are trying to: “minimize the time it takes to remove the songs you no longer want to hear”
  • Conclude – assess the experience

Rule 4: Define customer needs as desired outcomes

Formulate outcome statements as ‘[direction], [metric], [object of control], [optional: contextual clarifier]’. In the case of our music listening example that would be as follows:


In the case of a job to be done by a circular-saw an example might be as follows:


How do you collect these outcome statements?

There are often between 50 ~ 150 outcome statements that describe getting a job done depending on the complexity of the job. 

The key point here is that it’s not 5, 10, 20 like you might think it is. It’s often much more and it takes around 10 ~ 20 qualitative customer interviews with job executors working through the job map to uncover all of these outcome statements.

You can discover these outcome statements by sitting down with job executors in qualitative research interviews and asking them about each step of the job map “what makes this step time consuming, unpredictable and/or inefficient?

Customers may at present be implementing work-arounds and cobbling together different solutions to get the entirety of the job done as some existing products/solutions only get part of the job done. A solution is better when it helps get more of the job done and the ultimate solution helps to get the entire job done. New products/solutions get adopted by the market when they help get much more of the job than the existing solutions do. We can see how this has evolved with our music example:

  • LPs/CDs
    • listen to the music
  • Mp3 Players
    • gather the desired music
    • organize the music
    • listen to the music
    • modify the music selection

Ways to get a job done better

  • faster
  • cheaper
  • more predictable
  • higher throughput/output

Rule 5: unmet outcomes drive market strategy

In any given market there are needs that are over-served, appropriately served and under-served. You can find opportunities and determine your strategy by doing research to determine the ‘opportunity landscape’ to find unmet needs. A need is defined as being as unmet if it is both important and unsatisfied.

Once you have done the qualitative research to get the list of outcome statements you then produce a survey asking people to rate the importance and their level of satisfaction of each of the outcome statements and then plot them on a graph. 

  • rate each on a 5 point scale
  • rate importance first, satisfaction second
  • this is done through a survey and asking between 30 ~ 1000 people

Rule 6: segment around unmet outcomes

Outcome based segmentation reveals hidden-opportunities and informs strategy

  • if you are going after an over-served segment can you make a product that serves the same needs for a significantly reduced cost?
  • If you are going after an appropriately served segment can you add more features to get more jobs done?
  • If you are going after an under-served market your customers will likely pay a premium for your solution allowing you to achieve a larger profit share.

Emotional jobs to be done

The outputs of your quantitative and qualitative research can also help you to determine your marketing message via a process known as emotional-functional correlation anaylsis.

Once you have created a product that you know satisfies a particular group of unmet needs, you can then ask the question “since we have created a product that satisfies those things what emotions are we appealing to?”. Find the correlation between those things and the emotions that people are trying to achieve when getting the job done and now you can start building your marketing message.