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Pick Your Spot to Compete and Win by Scoping the Total Job-To-Be-Done

In my previous articles (constructing a job statement, alternative job statement construct) I provided two job statement constructs we can use to define a job or set of jobs, people want to get done. The initial job statement provides a starting point and direction of where we will explore and investigate important jobs people want done.

Before we move into the next phase of our job investigation, we should do a little more analysis of the job statements we have compiled and explore if these jobs are the ultimate end jobs (primary or “core” job) or sub-jobs of a primary job. By doing so we create a clearer picture of the overall scope and complexity of getting the job under investigation done.

In chapter 5 of “the Innovator’s Playbook,” I describe a primary job as being the fundamental problem a customer faces or the ultimate outcome (objective) they desire. More often than not, a primary job will have sub-jobs and ancillary jobs associated with it. For example, a primary job might be building a house.

Building a house is a relatively complex job requiring many steps and sub-jobs. From architectural design, to final customer acceptance sign-off, and everything in-between. We can represent the primary job in a top-down break-down tree diagram to understand the primary job at hand. See figure 1.

A job-tree for building a house

Figure 1: Job tree for building a house

Ancillary jobs of building a house include landscaping, utility hookups, flooring, carpeting, appliances, and similar task. Doing a bit more thinking and scoping about the primary job, we discover that building a house is actually a sub-job of establishing a home (defined as a place where a family lives).

In establishing a home, a family might consider buying a new house, in which case they would engage an architect and homebuilder to get the job done. Other important jobs, which are ancillary to buying the house include moving in, buying new furniture, window coverings, just to name a few important jobs families need to get done in establishing their home.

The point is, primary jobs can be quite complex and rich with opportunities That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s unlikely, a single company can provide solutions to every job in a job tree (another term we can use is job map). A company needs to pick its spot where it can compete and win within a job tree.

The job or set of jobs we focus on, needs to be actionable. Jobs that our customers and we can get our arms around. Jobs that are clearly defined, understandable, important, and not getting done perfectly. And jobs that are within our ability to design, develop and deliver superior solutions than what is currently available.

Scoping out The Job To Be Done: The big picture versus the small picture

Sticking with the primary job of building a house, let’s suppose a door manufacturer, let’s call them Myopia Door, wants to create a new product for new home construction.

Using the job statement construct: an action verb – object of action – contextual clarifier, we might define the job-to-be done as:

“Provide doors for new home construction”

On the surface, the job statement (our job under investigation) appears actionable. People need doors in homes for security, privacy and living space flow. And buyers of homes expect homebuilders to get that important job done for them.

Myopia Door is clearly addressing a need, for both the ultimate buyer (the homeowner) and the technical buyer (the homebuilder). But what makes our Myopia Door different form the rest of the door manufacturers? Myopia’s competitors make doors too. But are there other important jobs that Myopia and its competitors not addressing that could be a game changer?

In other words, is Myopia’s job statement too narrow? Or is it too broad? Or is it just right? To answer that question, we will need to investigate in greater detail the job tree of building a new home, and perhaps buying and owning a home.

Why bother worrying about the homebuyer and owner? Myopia Door might assume that the homebuilder is the primary customer they need to focus on. After all it’s the homebuilder’s (and architect’s) job to understand what customers want (i.e. a comfortable and safe living space).

And it’s the homebuilder’s responsibility to either choose an existing door from Myopia’s collections of wonderful doors, or provide Myopia detailed specifications to make customized doors. Right? That’s how it’s been done in the past after all.

The answer would be yes – if Myopia Door is satisfied with competing in a red ocean (i.e. creating commodity doors) with the rest of the pack. But if the objective of Myopia Door is to innovate and create new rules of the game, then its next step is to do a jobs-to-be-done investigation ,and really understand the total job it takes to install doors, and what homeowners really want in security, privacy and living space flow.

Conducting a Job Scene Investigation (SJI)

If Myopia Door wants to compete to win, it needs to conduct a “job-scene-investigation” (JSI). They need to think of themselves more than just being a commodity door supplier – they need to get important jobs done that people want. This includes both the homebuilder and the home owner.

Next article we will begin the process of doing a Job-Scene-Investigation and how to discover the unseen obvious.

Till then, keep an open mind and focus on the total job people want to get done better.


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