This post discusses a specific aspect of Jobs to be Done. If you haven’t already done so, we suggest starting with the post—What is Jobs To Be Done. This will give you a broad overview of JTBD concepts with links to other posts that take a deeper dive into those concepts.

Individuals and organizations are busy executing hundreds of jobs at any given time with the help of job solutions. But they’re not executing those jobs in a haphazard or random manner. Rather, individuals and organizations are driven by vision and purpose, giving rise to a myriad of intentions over their lifespans. Specifically, an intention is a determination to move towards a specific vision or aspiration.

Individuals have lots of intentions relating to careers, family, prosperity, health and wellness, religion and spirituality, education, relationships, social standing, and many more. Organizations have lots of intentions relating to competitive strategies, leadership, financial management, human resources, social engagement, customer service, product management and culture to mention a few. Intentions are not discrete things. Rather, they build on each other, reflecting a grand design for the life of individuals and the operation of organizations.

Now, when individuals and organizations have an intention in mind, they set out to effectuate that intention, that is, to put the intention into effect or operation. Based on a kind of logic, they determine what jobs they want to execute to effectuate a particular intention in the context of their circumstances.

This logical grouping of jobs is called a progress hierarchy, the structure of which reveals the relationships among those jobs vis-à-vis an intention that customers are trying to effectuate. Understanding these relationships is useful for innovation work because it reveals opportunities to create and enhance solutions in ways that help customers more effectively and efficiently realize their intentions.

To map a progress hierarchy, start with a single intention. Below that intention is a number of prime jobs and/or high-level jobs that customers want to execute to effectuate that intention. Jobs that generate similar or kindred success outcomes are grouped together into a progress area. Any of those jobs can involve co-execution with providers and/or other job executors. And keep in mind that every high-level job in a progress hierarchy has a job stack consisting of one or more related prime jobs and/or related high-level jobs.

Progress areas reveal two kinds of relationships among jobs in a job hierarchy. Jobs in the same progress area are called associated jobs, so named because they’re associated with the same progress area. Jobs that are in different progress areas are called adjacent jobs, so named because they’re in adjacent progress areas. It should be noted that these aren’t types of jobs, per se, but rather the relationship that jobs have with each other vis-à-vis progress areas in a progress hierarchy.

Now, consider that there’re a lot of individuals who desire to, “Maintain health and wellness.” This statement can’t be characterized as a high-level job or continuous progress because the level of abstraction is too high. It’s not clear what “health and wellness” actually means and for this reason it’s not actionable. Instead, this statement is an intention because it expresses a determination to act on an aspiration, and in doing so, motivates the desire for progress.

Therefore, when the intention “maintain health and wellness” comes to mind, individuals are motivated to execute jobs to make progress in one or more areas. They use a kind of logic to determine what jobs will best effectuate this intention in the context of their circumstances.

For instance, certain individuals might choose to execute jobs in three progress areas relating to aspects of health and wellness, namely physical fitness, healthy consumption, and psychological health, among others. The high-level jobs “Improve cardio conditioning,” “Improve muscle tone,” and “Improve Flexibility” generate success outcomes associated with physical fitness, which makes these associated jobs.

The high-level jobs, “Increase nutritious meals” and “Reduce calories consumed” generate success outcomes associated with healthy consumption, which makes these associated jobs. The high-level jobs, “Reduce stress” and “Treat a psychological condition” generate success outcomes associated with psychological health, which means these are also associated jobs.

Now, once individuals reach a desired level of cardio, muscle and flexibility fitness, they’ll likely want to maintain those fitness levels — that is, they’ll want to make continuous progress in this area and the other areas to effectuate the intention, “Maintain health and wellness.” So, at some point, the jobs in this area may change to, “Maintain cardio fitness,” “Maintain muscle tone,” and “Maintain flexibility.”

The jobs in the healthy consumption area may change to “Continue eating nutritious meals,” and “Control calories consumed.” And the jobs in the psychological health area may change to “Control stress” and “Control a psychological condition.” Keep in mind that some related jobs in high-level job stacks will have to be continually executed to maintain these outcomes.

It’s worth emphasizing that when mapping a progress hierarchy, always start with an intention because this puts the focus on what customers are striving to do, not what they’re currently doing via solutions; this comes later. For the intention, “Maintain health and wellness,” first ask customers what progress areas reflect health and wellness in their mind. Some obvious candidates are physical fitness, healthy consumption, and psychological health, but whatever these areas are, they’re for customers to define.

Then ask what jobs they ideally want to execute and the success outcomes they want to satisfy in each of those progress areas. This line of inquiry will reveal how certain groups of customers want to effectuate the intention, “Maintain health and wellness” and the relationships among the jobs they want to execute. The last step is to understand how customers are struggling to get those jobs done well and the circumstances and the limitations of solutions-in-use that are causing those struggles.

The progress hierarchy is useful because it enables innovators to identify a wide spectrum of jobs that customers want to get done to effectuate a particular intention. All those jobs are seldom obvious to solution providers because their purview is typically limited to product and service categories. What many providers are missing is that customers, in their pursuit to effectuate an intention, often must cobble together lots of solutions from independent providers. This makes it time consuming, arduous and expensive to get all those jobs done, resulting in slow progress.

Now with this insight, innovators can identify ways to help customers get multiple or substantially all those jobs done on a single service platform. Moreover, understanding the relationships among all these jobs opens up possibilities for multi-threaded solution design, the aim of which is to satisfy the wanted success outcomes of multiple associated and adjacent jobs via a single solution.

Like job stack solutions, multi-threaded solutions are quite compelling to customers because they increase job economy. In this context, they significantly reduce the time, effort and expense of effectuating intentions, thereby accelerating progress. But without the purview of the progress hierarchy, these kinds of solutions are forfeit.

For example, lots of individuals hire health clubs to help them effectuate the intention, “Maintain health and wellness.” However, health clubs in general tend to define themselves in terms of physical fitness, which limits the solutions they can offer to that progress area.

What many health clubs are missing is that customers may also want to make progress in the areas of healthy consumption and psychological health as well. With this insight, health clubs could offer health and wellness coaches, not just fitness coaches, that inform and motivate customers to get jobs done in those other areas.

Now, a growing trend among certain individuals is a desire for “mindfulness,” a psychological state of maintaining one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. Recognizing this as a high-level job in the psychological health progress area, health clubs could offer group meditation instruction and classes, tai chi and other offerings to help their customers make that progress.

It should be noted that no solution provider has the requisite resources and capabilities to help customers satisfy all needs relating to effectuating a particular intention. But providers can integrate partner organizations into their business models that do have those capabilities. Remember, a service platform can and should integrate the job solutions of multiple providers to satisfy a wide range of customer needs.

With the purview of the progress hierarchy, providers have a design blueprint of sorts to build-out their service platforms in a way that help customers effectuate their intentions. Service platforms that can help customers do this will be well-positioned as the best value among competing alternatives.

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