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Constructing a “job statement” to focus innovation

A job statement is used to describe and frame a job-to-be-done (J2BD).  A job statement should explain:

  1. Who has the job, also known as the Job Executor

  2. What they’re trying to get done and why  – the Job and Desired Outcomes

  3. The context in which the job occurs  – Circumstances, Constraints and Barriers

A job statement has the following construct:

 [Customer] wants to [solve a problem] in [this circumstance]

For example, on construction sites, a lot of time is wasted looking for tools and materials in executing construction jobs. The right tools aren’t brought to the site, making the job executor go back to his shop to get the right tools. Tools get put down and quickly become lost in the clutter of the site. Or perhaps a fellow construction worker borrows a tool, and doesn’t return it. Or worse, doesn’t tell his fellow worker he borrowed the tool and the job executor goes on a frantic search looking for the tool.

A job construct for this job scenario:

Construction workers want to have the right tools, equipment  and materials within in easy reach and not have to go searching  for them when working in messy and cluttered work sites to improve their productivity.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Job Statement construct in this example:

The customer / job executor:  

  1. Construction workers

The problem to solve:

  1. Having the right tools on hand to do the job, to avoid going back to the tool crib or local hardware store to purchase the missing tools and materials

  2. Losing tools on site and searching for them is a pain and cost a lot of wasted time and increased job frustration.


  1. A job site located several minutes to hours away from the central tool crib and  hardware store, making it time consuming and expensive to order a replacement  tool.

  2. Job site clutter and chaos (i.e. lots of activities going on) makes it likely a tool will get lost if not kept in tow.

Primary Jobs, Job Trees  and Job Chains

Having the right tool at the right time on a construction site, and keeping tabs of these tools is an example of a sub job or task within a larger job-to-be-done context. For a construction job, there are many jobs that need to be executed in achieving the “primary job” of erecting a building.

A “primary job” is the fundamental problem or ultimate outcome a customer faces. In our example, a construction worker’s ultimate outcome is to erect a building (or other structure) defined by his work order and schematics. Bringing the right tools and materials to the job site and keeping track of them, is a sub job he has to do in executing the primary job.

All the sub jobs required to execute the primary job make up what’s called the “job tree.” A job tree is a hierarchical representation of the primary job to be done. We can think of jobs in terms of a top-down-break-down structure, similar to how project managers break down complicated task (i.e. work breakdown structure: WBS), and how system engineers define complicated systems (system, sub-systems, components and BOM).

The construction worker might have many nodes in his job tree including building a foundation, framing, roofing, dry walling, wiring, plumbing, finishing and so forth. In larger construction jobs, there will be specialized crews who are hired to do specific job nodes. For example carpenters, roofers, electricians, painters, etc.

house construction

Each one of these job nodes representing discrete “jobs-to-be-done” with their own set of sub-jobs and desired outcomes, called “job chains” – the task and steps required to getting higher level jobs done. See figure 1.

All Jobs are processes

Taking the concept of WBS one step deeper by realizing that each job or job chain in a job tree has a set of specific steps an executor does in executing a job. Each of these steps has inputs, outputs and desired outcomes and represent an opportunity for developers to innovate by creating solutions that help an executor get the job done better.

In our construction example, a job a carpenter (the job executor) is tasked to do is hang doors (the job-to-be-done in a job chain). The carpenter plans his work by referring to his job order and schematics (job definition), gathers and locates materials and tools to perform his job (perpetration), hangs the door (job execution), makes sure the door is functioning (verifying), makes modifications if necessary(correcting), and concludes the job when the job foreman checks off the work as completed.

Mapping out these steps is called “Job Mapping.” Every job from hanging doors to cleaning up the job site has distinct beginning, middle and end with steps along the way. Locating and gathering tools is not only a step but also an example of a  job in of itself. Having the right tools on hand is a job that is repeated throughout the job-tree and could provide an opportunity to add value to the job executor if we can save him time, money and make his job easier.

7-29-13 job-tree-house

Figure 1: Job Tree for Building a House

Opportunities for innovation are found up and down a job tree

From an innovation opportunity perspective, we can focus on various jobs-to-be-done up and down the job tree. For example we could provide a total solution for “hanging doors” for our carpenter or the prime contractor. Of course that would limit our scope and potential market opportunities. But that may be a winning and profitable strategy if we can make the job of hanging doors faster, easier and less expensive.

In our next article we will dive deeper into job mapping and examine how to use job maps to uncover innovation opportunities. In future articles we will explore how to scope and verify opportunities using the opportunity algorithm.

Until then, keep an eye on your tools, you will need them to execute!


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