JTBD Framework Concepts—JTBD Progression Part 6

This post is PART 6/6 of a paper entitled “Origins and Progression of Jobs Theory.” Summary—It is argued that ambiguity around customer needs and customer value is the root cause of innovation failure; jobs theory is built on prior theories of customer behavior; how JTBD became bifurcated creating two schools of thought; the two schools are synthesized to create the JTBD framework; post synthesis, JTBD concepts are expanded and refined.

Read paper from the beginning

Usefulness of the JTBD Framework

It has been established that ambiguity around customer needs and customer value is the reason why a great many innovation efforts disappoint. A provider cannot consistently create new products and services and enhance existing solutions in a way that will create profitable customer demand without completely and accurately defining customer needs. Yet even today, customer needs and customer value are not well understood. Further, customer needs and customer value are often conflated creating a fuzzy distinction between the two.

Without first having a comprehensive understanding of customer needs, the solutions-first approach is generally the default path. This path leads to—

  • Asking customers what features they want in a solution without knowing if there is a better and/or cheaper way to satisfy those needs (which is tantamount to asking customers to innovate for the provider);
  • Blindly following competitors with “line extensions” to existing solutions without first knowing whether customers would value those enhancements;
  • Imitating new solutions introduced by other providers without knowing if those solutions will be successful for the imitator.

Because innovation efforts are informed by inputs other than customer needs, results are unpredictable. Simply put, solutions-first is a hit or miss approach to innovation that has a low probability of success.

If the intention is to create and maintain products and services that customers want, it is imperative to understand the jobs customers are trying to get done because customer needs arise from jobs, not solutions. That is, solution features/benefits and the struggles that result from using solutions do not define needs—quite the opposite. Rather, customers want solutions that satisfy their needs with respect to getting jobs done well (per expectation).

As such, solutions are valuable to customers to the extent that the benefits offered are aligned with the satisfaction of these needs. If a solution offers a benefit(s) that is not well aligned with customer need(s), that benefit will be of little to no value to customers even though it is touted as a “benefit” by the provider. Disconnects between offered benefits and the customers’ perceived value of those benefits have serious repercussions for profitable demand creation.

It is worth emphasizing that customer needs have to do with a job-to-be-done and are independent of current and future solutions. Stated another way—because needs are anchored to job process logic, they remain valid over time even as solutions evolve. From the customers’ perspective, solutions are a “point-in-time” means to satisfy a set of needs for getting jobs done. This underscores that customers are loyal to the job, not solutions. As such, customers will always seek out solutions that help them get jobs done better, faster and/or cheaper.

To recap, the JTBD framework provides the structure that enables innovators to completely and accurately capture all customer needs associated with any executable job before ideating on new solutions or solution enhancement possibilities. This is the distinguishing feature of the needs-first approach to innovation. Customers are then asked to rate the importance and satisfaction of a set of needs (prioritizing those needs) which may surface additional value customers want to get a job done better (innovation opportunities).

With this insight, providers can quickly and efficiently use their resources to create and enhance solutions that customers will want to buy/use—no speculation required. Because the needs-first approach is predictable, the probability of innovation success is high.

The JTBD Framework Concepts

The JTBD framework increases the jobs-to-be-done lexicon since concepts from both jobs theory and Ulwick’s job process framework are combined. Additionally, I expand and/or refine the meaning of a number of JTBD concepts pursuant to attaining internal consistency within the JTBD framework as well as extending the scope of practice for jobs-to-be-done. Post-synthesis, each of the JTBD framework concepts is defined in detail.


A customer is an individual or organization who makes the decision or choice to use a particular job solution to execute a personal or organizational job. In the case of an organizational customer, an individual (or multiple individuals acting collectively) makes a choice to buy/use a solution as an agent(s) of the organization. The customer may or may not be a job executor.

Job Executor

A job executor is an individual, service appliance (aka: physical product), or a digital agent (any combination of AI’s, Web/mobile apps and/or back-end information systems) that performs one or more job activities associated with a particular job-to-be-done. A job is co-executed when there are two or more job executors (which is nearly always the case).


An individual or organization that offers a solution(s) to customers to help them get a job done. A commercial provider (aka: value producer) offers a solution for a price (a commercial solution); a commercial solution competes in an organized market with other solutions. A non-commercial provider offers a solution without stipulating price (a non-commercial solution); the non-commercial solution can be obtained absent an organized market.


A job-to-be-done (aka: “customer job” or simply “job”) is the progress that a customer is trying to make in a particular circumstance by way of executing a job process; where progress is defined as wanted functional, emotional and social success outcomes. A job process consists of all the job activities that a job executor(s) performs with the aim of accomplishing the logical job steps required to generate expected success outcomes.

Job steps are the intermediate goals that job executors have in mind as they perform job activities. Job process logic (as represented by job steps) is implied when activities are organized and performed in a way that achieves wanted success outcomes—characterizing purposeful behavior. Absent this logic, activities would be random and would have no aim (non-purposeful behavior). Customers do not exhibit non-purposeful behavior.

Economically speaking, a rational customer always exhibits purposeful behavior with respect to means and ends. A job is successfully executed (aka: job gets done well) in a customer’s mind to the extent that the customer’s needs relating to performing job activities and needs relating to success outcomes are satisfied per the customer’s expectation.

There are two types of jobs—prime jobs and high-level jobs. A prime job is executable as a job process, the structure of which is defined by the jobs-to-be-done framework. A high-level job is not executable as a job process, but rather gets done by executing a number of related prime jobs and related high-level jobs (i.e., job stacking behavior).

Success Outcomes

Success outcomes are the (end) results that customers have in mind as they execute a job. Stated another way, the purpose of executing any job is to generate success outcomes. Success outcomes can be results that a customer wants to happen and results that a customer wants to avoid (potential hazards).

Success outcomes are functional occurrences (tangible results) which may be associated with wanted or unwanted emotional states and external social perceptions. Simply put, functional, emotional and social success outcomes are the three dimensions of progress.

Emotional and social success outcomes are dependent on functional success outcomes for effect. That is, emotional and social success outcomes can only be satisfied to the extent that dependent functional success outcomes are generated. This is represented in the jobs-to-be-done framework as dotted lines connecting a functional success outcome with dependent emotional and social success outcomes.

There are times when only functional success outcomes are wanted—such as the case with most organizational jobs. But the jobs that individuals are trying to get done in their personal lives often involve emotional and social dimensions as well, which is why customer jobs can get quite complex. Further, emotional and social success outcomes can have a higher priority than functional success outcomes in the mind of a customer.

Customer Needs

Once an executable job is defined, the job steps are mapped. About thirty customers are interviewed individually to elicit the criteria they use to gauge how well each job step is accomplished by way of performing activities. These performance criteria are called customer value metrics (CVMs) and they are the customers’ needs with respect to getting a job done. To be clear, customer value metrics and customer needs are synonymous terms.

A set of CVMs is the same for all customers trying to get a job done in a particular circumstance, independent of available solutions. Once a complete set of CVMs is captured for any job, these needs are valid over time because they are anchored to job process logic and this logic is stable for as long as a job exists. This means that new needs are not added to a set, nor do any of the needs in a set drop off over time.

Customers will have the same set of needs for any job well into the future. What does change over time is how customers prioritize a set of needs based on the importance and satisfaction of each of those needs (i.e., job priorities). Customer job priorities shift due to changing job circumstance and the limitations of solutions-in-use.

The JTBD framework recognizes two distinct categories of customer needs—1) Job process CVMs (aka: job action CVMs) and 2) success outcomes. Job action CVMs indicate what customers want to happen as they perform job activities of which there are two types—efficiency CVMs and precursor CVMs. Customers have limited time, energy and money to work with (resources), but they have virtually unlimited jobs they want to get done and needs to satisfy. For this reason, customers want to perform job activities in a way that minimizes the use of those resources.

Specifically, customers want to minimize the time, effort and additional expense of performing job activities. This reflects that customers want to perform job activities as efficiently as possible, which is why these needs are called efficiency CVMs. Precursor CVMs express a desire for intermediate outcomes that customers perceive to be necessary precursors to achieving wanted results.

This reflects that customers want to perform job activities as effectively as possible, which is why these needs are called precursor CVMs. There are typically between two and five job action CVMs associated with each job step that customers use to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of job process execution.

The second category of customer needs are the success outcomes that customers are aiming to generate by executing a job process. Success outcomes externalize or objectify wanted results as though they have already happened (expressing desired future states). Because success outcomes are an effect of performing job activities, they are lagging indicators of job process effectiveness.

Therefore, increasing the level of satisfaction for success outcomes can only be done by increasing the efficacy of a solution-in-use. To be clear, precursor CVMs (predictive indicators) and success outcomes (lagging indicators) are both customer needs that have to do with job execution effectiveness.

To be clear, job execution efficiency and job execution effectiveness are both a function of solution design, but they address different customer needs. A solution can efficiently structure job activities but may be less effective in generating expected success outcomes.

Conversely, a solution may effectively generate expected success outcomes but may not do so efficiently. Customers always want solutions that efficiently generate expected success outcomes. Therefore, the design of any job solution must take into account customer needs relating to job execution efficiency and customer needs relating to job execution effectiveness.

Job action CVMs are structured as directional metrics of value—that is, customers either want to minimize or increase something relating to job process execution. For example: “Minimize the time it takes to explain a problem,” and “Increase the number of open check-out registers” and “Increase the likelihood that a support person will know how to resolve my problem.”

Success outcome CVMs are structured as desired future state targets and they are stated in the present or present continuous tense. For example, “The package arrives on time” (wanted result) and “The package is not damaged” (unwanted result) and “I am maintaining a good credit score” and “Bills are continually paid on time.” Conversely, a customer may want to continuously avoid an unwanted result—“I am protected against identity theft.”

Job Circumstance

Job circumstance refers to the context in which a customer is trying to execute a job, which is always the case because jobs are never executed in a vacuum. Specifically, job circumstance is the totality of contextual factors associated with a situation and/or condition that affects the way a customer wants to get a job done—both the kind of progress a customer wants to make and how efficiently and effectively a customer wants to make that progress.

According to Christensen, “circumstance is intrinsic to the definition of a job,” which is why “a job can only be defined—and a successful solution created—relative to the specific context in which it arises.” Further, “the nature of progress desired will always be strongly influenced by the circumstance” (1).

Broadly speaking, contextual factors that cause moments of struggle (MoS) with respect to job process execution include the following:

1) Situation. These are contextual factors extrinsic to a customer and/or a job solution that can cause moments of struggle with respect to job execution efficiency and effectiveness. Some examples of situational circumstance include—the time, place and with whom a job is executed; government, organizational, and personal policies (rules); economic, environmental and social dynamics; specific events; the behaviors of others, among many other things. A key question to ask is—what situational circumstance is causing customers to struggle to get a job done?

2) Condition. These are contextual factors intrinsic to a customer and/or a job solution that can cause moments of struggle with respect to job execution efficiency and effectiveness. Some examples of conditional circumstance include—the personal characteristics/attributes of a customer or job executor such as demographic profile, values and attitudes, knowledge, abilities, to mention a few.

Intrinsic factors relating to a solution include poor solution and business model design as well as problems arising from the value network in which a solution depends to generate or fulfill customer value. A key question to ask is—what conditional circumstance is causing customers to struggle to get a job done?

It should be emphasized that there are many contextual factors that can affect how efficiently and how effectively a job gets done via a particular job solution. Thus, the term “circumstance” is plural in the sense that it refers to multiple contextual factors which can be a combination of situational and conditional factors.

To be clear, it is often said that a customer job is executed in a particular circumstance or under a particular set of circumstances. What this actually means is that there are multiple contextual factors that can potentially affect the way that job gets done.

Any provider solution is designed to help customers (to one extent or another) perform the required job activities to efficiently and effectively generate expected success outcomes. As such, solutions necessarily structure job activities thereby orchestrating how a job is executed. Moments of struggle arise when a job process is executed in a manner that does not adequately accommodate or resolve job circumstance. Therefore, circumstance exploits the limitations of solutions-in-use which, in turn, creates moments of struggle for customers.

Job Theory makes the claim that circumstance is the causal mechanism underlying customer choice. The rationale is as follows. A customer has a set of needs with respect to getting a particular job done where some needs are more important than others. The question is—what causes a customer to rank (in his/her mind) the importance of needs? The short answer is circumstance.

The needs that customers perceive to be important reflect the aspects of job execution that are most relevant for that circumstance. To get a job done well in a particular circumstance, important needs around that job must be satisfied. Simply put, circumstance moderates (or modifies) the importance of needs associated with a particular job.

Customers are keenly aware of the specific contextual factors that are causing their struggles, and these are the problems they are trying to solve for. As such, they seek out job solutions that offer features and benefits they perceive will best accommodate or resolve those contextual factors. Therefore, a customer’s hiring criteria is based on how well a solution addresses the circumstance causing that struggle (aka: circumstance of struggle), not moments of struggle, per se. In a customer’s mind, a moment of struggle is the problem and job circumstance is the cause.

In their never-ending quest to get jobs done better, faster and cheaper, customers want to execute any job as efficiently and effectively as possible given the trade-offs they are willing to make. That being the case, customers choose solutions that best accommodate or resolve the circumstance they perceive can reduce job execution efficiency and increase job execution effectiveness.

Therefore, job circumstance causes customers to buy/use certain solutions to get a particular job done well vis-à-vis other competing alternatives. For this reason, circumstance is the causal mechanism underlying customer choice as jobs theory claims.

It should be noted that not all contextual factors have an effect on job solution efficacy. To be clear, the aforementioned claim made by jobs theory refers specifically to 1) contextual factors that influence the efficiency in which job activities are performed via a solution, 2) contextual factors that prevent some or all job activities from being performed at all (constraints and barriers), and 3) contextual factors that can cause success outcomes to fall short of expectation.

Moment of Struggle (MoS)

In essence, a moment of struggle is an important need (a customer value metric) associated with a particular job that is not satisfied to one extent or another by a solution-in-use in the mind of a customer. Because there are two categories of customer needs, there are two types of struggles—those relating to job execution efficiency and those relating to job execution effectiveness.

Both kinds of struggles occur because the design of a solution-in-use is not capable of adequately accommodating or resolving the circumstance in which a customer is trying to execute a job. The limitation of that solution is exploited by circumstance.

In a customer’s mind, when a particular job activity takes too much time, effort and/or additional expense to perform via a particular solution, the customer experiences a moment of struggle (MoS) relating to job execution efficiency. Due to a limitation, the solution does not structure a job activity(s) in a way that enables a customer to efficiently perform that activity (as expected) in a particular job circumstance.

In a customer’s mind, when a precursor CVM or success outcome falls short of the customer’s expectation, the customer experiences a moment of struggle relating to job execution effectiveness. Due to a limitation, the solution does not structure job activities in a way that enables a customer to effectively execute a job process. Consequently, the intermediate precursor outcome or success outcome is not generated (as expected) in that circumstance.

Job Solution

A job solution is any product or service (or combination of the two) offered by a provider or created by a customer (aka: a cobbled solution) that enables a job executor to perform job activities. Any job solution is characterized as a combination of the following three binary attributes—

  • A provider OR cobbled solution;
  • An exclusive OR alternative solution;
  • A complete OR partial solution

Additionally, physical solutions (or a physical component of a service solution) are either durable or consumable—a fourth attribute (see Figure 19).

(Figure 19)

Job solution attributes are defined as follows—

A provider solution is one that is offered by a provider. A commercial provider offers a commercial solution for a price by way of an organized market. A non-commercial provider offers a non-commercial solution without stipulating price and absent an organized market.

A cobbled solution is one that customers create themselves by combining or cobbling two or more resources into a do-it-yourself job solution that enables them to perform job activities. Customers obtain resources for a cobbled solution from providers and/or a natural ecosystem.

An exclusive solution is one that a customer hires on an exclusive basis to perform the same job activities over and over again under the same set of circumstances. That is, only one exclusive solution is required to get a certain job done in a particular circumstance. A solution is exclusive when—

  • There is no desire for variety with respect to executing a job;
  • There is a sunk cost that drives the motivation to use a particular solution exclusively;
  • A customer makes a hire commitment to a provider (via an agreement) to use a particular solution over a period of time

Consider the following examples. People typically have one mobile phone provider, one home Internet provider, and one car insurance provider, not multiple providers for these jobs (there is no desire for variety). For a homeowner, it does not make economic sense to buy more than one lawn mower to cut the same yard every time that job arises (assuming the same circumstance). Spending money on an additional lawn mower would not get the job done any better.

A customer commits to a year-long contract with a stock image provider which requires a monthly installment payment. The customer uses this solution exclusively to get the most value for the money paid each month (a hire commitment). If a customer chooses to use an additional stock image provider to increase the selection of images, then each of those stock image providers is a partial solution. Together, they are an exclusive solution-in-use.

Exclusive Solutions: FIRE ⇒ HIRE

An exclusive solution competes with other exclusive solutions. If a customer fires a complete or partial solution-in-use and hires a new solution to replace it, then those are competing exclusive solutions. When Clayton Christensen poses the question—What [solution] must be fired to hire your solution?—he is referring to exclusive solutions.

An alternative solution is one that is not used exclusively. A customer hires an alternative solution to execute the same job in a different way. The reason for doing this is to generate variety in a set of success outcomes (that is, a customer wants a “different experience”). Alternative solutions are used when variety is desired with respect to executing a job.

For instance, customers hire different alternative solutions like restaurants, movie theaters, live venues, and meal kit services expressly to generate a variety of experiences vis-à-vis the same job. Circumstance can also influence the choice among alternative solutions. Alternative solutions compete with other alternative solutions.

Consider the following example. A couple decides to dine out one particular evening. The prior week, the couple hired their favorite Mexican restaurant to get this job done as they have many times before. However, the couple prefers to have a different experience this particular evening (they desire variety).

Perhaps it is snowing (an ephemeral circumstantial factor) and the couple does not want to travel to the Mexican restaurant, which is a considerable distance away. Instead, they opt for an Asian restaurant this time around. The fact that the couple chooses the Asian restaurant does not mean they fire their favorite Mexican restaurant.

Indeed, the couple may choose the Mexican restaurant once again the following week and many weeks after that. The couple is simply “in the mood for something different” or ephemeral circumstance makes the Mexican restaurant less desirable on this particular occasion. The different restaurant choices that the couple considers are competing alternative solutions.

Alternative Solutions: PASS ⇒ HIRE / RE-HIRE

Competing alternative solutions are not fired. Rather, customers choose one alternative solution out of a group of competing alternative solutions to get a job done on a particular occasion. Customers “pass” on the competing alternative solutions not selected to get the job done.

The next time that same job arises, a customer may choose a different alternative solution out of that same group (or they may change the solution choices). But they do not fire the last alternative solution used to get the job done. However, if a customer has a “bad experience” with an alternative solution (that is, they experience moments of struggle), the customer may remove that solution from consideration the next time the same job arises.

A complete solution is one that is used to perform all the job activities required to fully execute a job process. A complete solution can be comprised of two or more partial solutions. Together, those partial solutions are a complete solution.

A partial solution is one that is used to perform some (but not all) of the job activities required to execute a job process.

A durable solution is a physical product that can be used over a long period without diminishing its value (i.e., a car, a computer, etc).

A consumable solution (aka: “disposable solution”) is a physical product that is diminished over a short period of time with use. A consumable solution is replaced when it is “used up” or “worn down” (i.e., disposable razor, disposable camera, etc).

To be clear, durable and consumable solution attributes apply only to physical solutions or physical components of service solutions.


A solution-in-use is a job solution that a customer is currently using to execute a job.

A solution-in-use can also be NO-solution. While this may seem counter-intuitive, a customer makes a deliberate choice not to use a solution with respect to a particular job for the following reasons—

1) The job is perceived to have little to no importance;

2) A customer wants to get the job done, but there is a constraint(s) or barrier(s) impeding them from doing so (i.e., ability-to-pay, time, emotional or social stigma, fear, etc.);

3) A customer is not aware that a solution exists that can help then get the job done

It should be noted that it is seldom the case that individuals and organizations are not getting jobs done that have low importance. Usually, they are getting those jobs done, albeit with very poor solutions—often with cobbled solutions (which is why these kinds of solutions are sometimes hard to recognize).

Competing Job Solution

A competing job solution is any provider or cobbled solution that an individual or organizational customer regards as being able to satisfy his/her needs or the needs of an organization with respect to getting a particular job done. In their never-ending quest to get jobs done better, faster and/or cheaper, customers get very creative with respect to the solutions they hire to execute jobs. Customers consider all possible job solutions. They do not confine their search solely to solution categories defined by commercial providers.

Michael Porter makes a distinction between competing solutions offered by “direct rivals” within a defined industry and “substitutes” offered by firms outside a particular industry. Specifically, Porter defines a substitute as a product or service that satisfies the same basic needs as the industry’s products, but in a different way (2, 3). However, Jobs Theory makes no such distinction. From a customer’s perspective, any provider or cobbled solution that can satisfy a customer’s needs is a competing solution.

A competing solution can also be NO-solution. Since a customer is making a deliberate choice not to use a solution to get a particular job done, the customer must make a deliberate choice to switch from NO-solution to a competing solution. Christensen refers to situations where customers are using NO-solution with respect to a particular job as “non consumption” (1). In such cases, a provider solution must compete with NO-solution.

A customer will not switch from NO-solution to a competing solution with respect to a particular job if that solution does not resolve the constraint(s) or barrier(s) that prevents the customer from getting the job done. Lacking evidence of other provider solutions, commercial providers mistakenly assume that there are no competing solutions vis-à-vis the solution they are offering. In the customers’ mind, there are always competing solutions—either provider solutions, cobbled solutions or NO-solution.

Consider the following example. A customer using NO-solution with respect to a particular job is offered solution X by a commercial provider. Unbeknown to the provider, solution X is competing with NO-solution. If the job is not important enough to the customer, the customer will not switch to solution X regardless of how many benefits solution X offers.

If the job is important enough, then the customer is motivated to get that job done better. However, if solution X fails to resolve the constraint(s) or barrier(s) that impedes the customer from even trying to get the job done, then the customer will not switch to solution X. In both cases, NO-solution is better than solution X in the customer’s mind.

Commercial providers sometimes assume that any solution is better than NO-solution. However, this is not the case from a customer’s perspective. Further, commercial providers seldom consider that their solutions are competing with NO-solution when they are targeting non-customers. But, from a non-customer’s perspective, a competing solution must be better than NO-solution. Unfortunately, commercial solutions can sometimes fail to make that case.

Job Solution Resource

A job solution resource is a tangible or intangible component that when combined with another resource(s) enables a customer to create a do-it-yourself or cobbled solution. Many providers offer resources to customers rather than solutions. For example, yarn, construction materials, individual meal ingredients, individual clothing items, copier paper, individual jewelry items, toner cartridges, computer cables, and batteries are all resources, not job solutions.

Job Solution Fit

Job solution fit refers to how well a product/service satisfies (or can satisfy) customers’ needs with respect to getting a job done well (as expected). Specifically, a job solution fit increases to the extent that it enables a customer to both efficiently and effectively execute a job. It’s worth noting that customer expectations with regard to what it means to get a particular job done well is modified by the trade-offs customers are willing to make with respect to the satisfaction of needs.

In short, trade-offs are compromises made to reduce the price, opportunity cost and/or switching costs associated with buying/using a solution. The terms “product/service quality,” and “product-problem fit” have a similar meaning. However, “job solution fit” is specific to the JTBD framework.



1. Christensen, C. M., Hall, T., Dillon, K., & Duncan, D. S. (2016). Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. Harper Business.

2. Magretta, J. (2012). Understanding Michael Porter. HBR Press.

3. Porter, M. E., & Competitive, S. (1985). Competitive Advantage. New York; London: Free Press.

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