Recently I have been talking to a lot of customers in my company and trying to validate some of the problem hypothesis that we have framed. In this regard, I have been trying to read a lot about Jobs to be Done (JTBD) framework to do a good job at reaching to the root of my customer issues. And it was during this time that I stumbled across Amanda Ralph’s very recent talk and her slides on JBTD. I wrote to her if she could help us understand JBTD through a podcast interview and she obliged and I am grateful to her. We talked about all aspects of JTBD deeply and here is a brief summary of what we covered in our interaction.
About Amanda Ralph
Amanda is an experienced product management leader with over 18 years of experience in product portfolio management and innovation, generating significant revenue and market share growth. In a career spanning a ra
In a career spanning a range of corporate and not for profit sectors within Australia and the Pacific Islands, Amanda has championed organisations to embrace product and service innovation opportunities. In her current role, Amanda spearheads the direction and execution of the E2E value proposition and product strategy for Australia’s third largest superannuation fund, First State Super. Amanda is passionate about customer led product design and in product prototyping within an agile framework to deliver best in market products and customer outcomes. Amanda has a Bachelor of Economics and a Master of Arts (Asian Studies) from Monash University and is a University of Melbourne Asialink Leadership Fellow and Asia Education Foundation Literacy Ambassador.
If you do not have the time to listen to the podcast, here are the highlights of the interview:
Q. (2.45) What is Jobs to be Done?
JTBD takes the focus away from feature sets and developing products around the features and actually try to understand what it that the product is solving for, what’s the customer need, what’s the job the customers are going to use the product for and how to do you solve for that. By doing this, you provide more value to them by providing a better product solution or service solution than what you would achieve by just focusing on the features.
It’s quite a shift in thinking from thinking purely about customers segments and moving towards thinking about groups of customers that have a particular job or problem that needs to be solved.
Amanda explains the 4 minute video by Clayton Christenson on the milk-shake case study
Q. (9.30)What happens after the context for the milkshake case study was understood by the researchers and ho were they better equipped with the job information.
Prior to understanding the context and the job the milkshake was solving for, the lot of the design focus and the product focus was on features. Do I put extra-whipped cream, do I add different flavor variations, do I give different sizes of the milkshake? They understand the jobs that the milkshake was delivering.
- The beverage was more filling than a regular beverage.
- Conveniently consumable without fearing of spoiling their clothes on their way to work.
- The beverage was viscous enough to last the course of their long drive to work.
By understanding the different jobs they were able to design the end-to-end solution for those customers. What they eventually realised was that it wasnt about developing a new milk-shake but making sure they innovated and optimized the process of buying the milk-shake. So, they ordered self-order kiosk to make it convenient for the people who were on their way to work. So they did not have to wait in long queues to purchase their milk shakes and could save time. As a result, sales went up, customer satisfaction went up. They also differentiated themselves from competitors who were still focussing on the features of the product. Remember, the product itself didn’t actually change.
Q. (15:30) Tony Ulwick uses the term ‘outcome-based innovation’ in his book, What Customers Want? How different is outcome-based innovation from JTBD or do they both mean the same?
They both focus on the outcome that you are solving for. The difference is only slight and that is in the framing of the question and nothing more. Instead of focussing on building a product and then finding customers and create demand for their product, you are actually looking at the customers’ needs and then delivering to an outcome that solve for those needs and problems.
Particularly in software development, there is a lot of focus on developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) where you focus on a few feature set and adding features in every iteration. Both Tony and Clayton go a step forward and say that MVP mindset is fine as a process but as long as you are focussed on the outcome in each iteration and not lose sight of that.
“As product managers we must always do a sense-check at every iteration of an MVP and see if we are still delivering to the outcome that our customer are seeking.”
Q. (17.30) In one of your earlier talks you talked about designing for behavior change and understand that people often say one thing and do another. Could you shed more light to that?
This is where a properly managed JBTD framework can be very very useful. For me the differentiator is whats the observed behavior versus the stated behavior. In the financial services sector where I have worked for most of my life it’s very common where people will say one thing but actually do something else. It is partly driven by behavioral economic drivers. It could be a status-quo bias or the effort to take up a new product could be too overwhelming. For example, retirements are a great example. People intuitively know that they need to save and putting away their money for their retirement purposes but when it comes to actually doing that, very few people do above and beyond what they are mandated to do.
You are more likely to drive that behavior change and drive switch behavior. But you still need to understand the other emotional and physchological triggers . Part of it is the context in which they see the world. It’s really important to understand the context just like the milk-shake case study. Observe your customers in all their life situations.
Q. (29.0)How do you conduct an effective JTBD interview to elicit the perfect job statement from the users? How good are users at explaining what their needs are? How am I supposed to know if I have drilled down to the real job statement from the users?
The first thing in a JTBD interview is to use open ended questioning and techniques. I have had experts to come and train me and my team in the past. This is because one of the challenges as product managers is that we are so passionate and engaged with the idea we have come up with that we want to hear a certain answer or an outcome and we can lead the conversation to that outcome, which I call it as ‘lead the witness’. Sometimes the insights you get is actually not the insights you thought you would get.
Q. (33.0)When customers begin to offer solutions while explaining their issues, should you be ecouraging that or should you avoid going that path?
You should avoid it but you should also understand that people have an emotional and personal connection to the products they use. If they start giving you a solution, listen to it and try to understand within that conversation what is that emotional component that is driving that thought process, how they feel about that solution, what’s their perception. Buy again if you are going down to far into the solution pathways, you lose focus on the outcomes that you actually need solution for.
JTBD interviews are something that needs practice and something you don’t get it. In my career, I have deferred that to other people who are better at it than me like trained user researchers and interviewers and I would be the observer.
Other questions that we asked Amanda
Q. Do you have more real world examples where Jobs to Be done framework was applied and new insights were found?
Q.(39.30) Is JBTD only a mindset or does it have a framework and set of tools that you can readily put to use?
Q. (43:00) What are the value driver trees?
Q. (45.30)What is the difference in approaches for an JTBD interview when the customer is an individual vis a vis when a customer itself a business?
Q. (47.30)“Jobs to be done” by itself sounds like taking care of the functional aspect of the job. But for every job, there is an emotional aspect of it too like fear, fatigue or frustration; anxiety or anger; panic, pride or pain; and so on. Shouldn’t we consider that aspect too to provide a complete job solution?
Q.(49) Case Study: Can you share the biggest challenge that you faced in your product manager career and what lessons you learnt from it?
Q (52) What are some of the books that have shaped your product management career and that you would recommend other product managers to read.
Q. (54.30)What are the key skills that you think product managers must have to succeed in their careers?
Resources shared in the podcast interview:
- Podcast by Anthony Ulvick
- Value Driver Trees:
Books mentioned in the interview:
- What Customers Want by Anthony Ulwick
- Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Creative Confidence by David Kelly
- Nudge by Richard Thaler