In this post we provide an abbreviated description of the foundational concepts of the Jobs to be Done framework. Each section is linked to other posts that take a deeper dive into these concepts. This series of posts comprise the FREE version of our Jobs to be Done online course (JTBD Primer).


Jobs-to-be-Done (or JTBD) is a theory-based approach for understanding the causal factors that drive customer behavior. JTBD provides the methods and tools that enable innovators to quickly and precisely define customer needs with respect to the “jobs” they’re trying to get done. Once these needs are prioritized, they define the value that customers want from products and services to get those jobs done better, faster and cheaper.

An Introduction:
The Jobs to be Done Concept




JTBD represents a culmination of the research and writings contributed by various individuals over the last 80 years. During this time, two schools of thought emerged regarding the practice of JTBD. One school is the job-as-a-process approach promoted by Anthony Ulwick and the other school is the job-as-progress approach promoted by the late Clayton Christensen and Bob Moesta. The JTBD approach described in this post is a synthesis of these two schools producing a comprehensive and well-structured methodology.

Deeper Dive:
The Roots of Jobs-to-be-Done




The Theory of Jobs to be Done (aka: Jobs to Be Done Theory and Jobs Theory) was developed by Clayton Christensen, management consultant and long-time Harvard Business School professor. Some years ago, Christensen’s research revealed that companies were missing something vital around which customer needs and segmentation criteria should be aligned, namely the causal mechanism of customer choice.

If this causal mechanism were known, companies could precisely define customer needs, accurately target customers with those needs and then design solutions that profitably satisfy those needs better than competing alternatives. With this knowledge, innovation could become predictable rather than hit or miss. Christensen set his intentions on building a theory that could explain the causality of customer choice.

Jobs Theory Model

Jobs Theory is based on the premise that when “jobs” arise in the minds of individuals and organizations (customers), they seek out and “hire” solutions to help them get those jobs done.

A customer job is defined as the “progress that an individual is trying to make in a particular circumstance,” where progress is “the movement toward a goal or aspiration.” Jobs Theory posits that there are “functional, emotional, and social dimensions that define desired progress.” (Christensen)

Broadly speaking, job circumstance are situational and/or conditional factors that 1) motivate customers to want to get jobs done (triggers) and 2) is also the context around which customers are trying to execute those jobs. When job circumstance makes it difficult and/or expensive to obtain or achieve goals as expected, customers “struggle” to make desired progress.

Deeper Dive:
Development of Jobs Theory: Part 1
Development of Jobs Theory: Part 2
Why Entrepreneurs and Companies Struggle with Innovation




Note: The Jobs to be Done Framework discussed in this post is a synthesis of the two schools of thought for practicing JTBD.

The rationale for the Jobs to be Done Framework is straightforward—individuals and organizations must execute a logical job process to make desired progress. Job process is operationalized in terms of job action and desired progress is operationalized in terms of success outcomes.

Success outcomes are the results that customers are aiming for as they perform job action. Specifically, customers engage in purposeful or logical behavior to generate three types of success outcomes—

Functional success outcomes are real occurrences that individuals and organizations (customers) want to happen as well as occurrences they want to avoid.

Emotional success outcomes are emotional states that individuals want to maintain and those emotional states they want to avoid.

Social success outcomes are results that have to do with how individuals want others to perceive them and the social perceptions they want to avoid.

Job action (aka: job process) can be viewed as both job logic and job activities—which are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Whether recognized or not, there’s always a logical structure to the execution of any job (the process). Job activities are organized in a logical manner for the purpose of generating wanted success outcomes (aka: purposeful behavior). Absent this logic, job activities would be random and aimless which is not consistent with how customers behave.

Job logic is delineated as a series of job steps or logical objectives that must be successfully accomplished to get a job done well (i.e., to successfully execute the job process). Although solutions enable individuals to accomplish job steps, solutions do not define them. Rather, it’s the logic of job action (the process) that defines job steps which is why they are independent of solutions.

Job activities are the tactics for accomplishing job step (i.e., job process objectives). Job activities can differ widely among customers trying to get the same job done because they use different solutions. Each of those solutions structure job activities in different ways—some better than others.

All customers want solutions that enable them to execute any job as an ideal process, which is the most efficient and effective way possible to generate expected success outcomes. The extent to which a solution can do this is called job solution fit and it represents the productive utility offered by a solution with respect to getting a job done.

Job circumstance can cause inefficient and/or ineffective job action to the extent that a particular solution can’t accommodate or resolve that circumstance. Consequently, customers must perform inefficient job activities and/or 2) success outcomes to fall short of expectations (aka: the limitations of solutions-in-use). When this happens, customers struggle to get a job done well.

Each such occurrence is a moment of struggle (MoS) and it represents (from the customer’s perspective) 1) a specific job activity that requires too much time, effort, and/or expense to perform or 2) a specific success outcome occurrence that does not meet a customer’s expectation.

As such, moments of struggle indicate the additional value that customers want from solutions to get a job done better. Although customers may choose to tolerate some MoS while using a particular solution, there’s a threshold of struggle that becomes unacceptable. At that point, customers start an active search for a better solution.

Once the job steps are delineated (mapped) and success outcomes defined for a particular job, we now have a framework that can be used to capture an exhaustive set of customer needs—which are the criteria customers use to evaluate how well a job gets done. That set of needs is the same for all customers trying to get a particular job done, independent of available solutions and job circumstance. Further, a set of needs is valid for as long as customers are trying to execute a job—usually a very long time.

The JTBD Framework makes a distinction between customer needs relating to job action and customer needs relating to desired progress.

Customer needs relating to job action are defined as the key outcomes that customers are aiming for as they perform job activities. As such, key outcomes define how efficiently each job step is accomplished in the customers’ mind. Simply put, key outcomes are the customers’ needs with respect to efficient job action. Regardless of the nature of job activities, all customers want to minimize the time, effort and resources required to accomplish job steps.

Customer needs relating to progress are defined as functional, emotional and social success outcomes. Stated another way, success outcomes define the results that customers want after a job has been successfully executed.

Now, successful innovation aims to satisfy customer needs better than competing alternatives. The problem is that we need a way to quantify what “better” means from the customer’s perspective. Otherwise, it’s not clear how much better a solution has to be to satisfy those needs.

The answer to this problem is to state key outcomes as directional metrics of value. By expressing key outcomes as either minimizing something or increasing something relating to performing job activities, value is defined along a continuum for each key outcome.

Success outcomes are stated in the present continuous tense as real occurrences, emotional states, and external social perceptions that customers want and don’t want to happen. Stated another way, success outcomes are expressed as though they’re happening in the present (and continue to happen).

Key outcomes and success outcomes structured in this way are called Customer Value Metrics (or CVMs) and they’re the criteria that determine the customer experience while executing a job via a particular job solution in some circumstance. It’s not uncommon to capture 2 to 5 customer value metrics for each job step. Depending on the complexity of the job, between 50 and 150 customer value metrics are generally captured for a given job.

A set of CVMs for a job will be the same for all customers trying to execute that job. However, Job circumstance and/or the limitations of solutions-in-use can cause customers to struggle in different ways to get the same job done. For this reason, customers will prioritize a set of CVMs for a particular job differently based on the nature of their struggles. Different job priorities, in turn, will affect the value certain customers want from solutions to get that job done better. These differences are the basis for jobs-based segmentation.

Once a set of Customer Value Metrics is captured for a given job, customers are then asked to prioritize those needs by rating the importance and satisfaction of each CVM via a Likert-type scale. These importance and satisfaction ratings are then analyzed resulting in a set of value targets that fall into one of four categories — undershot value targets, overshot value targets, must-be value targets, and indifferent value. Again, value targets are CVMs that have been prioritized by importance and satisfaction.

Undershot value targets indicate job action steps that require too much time, effort, and expense to perform and success outcomes that fall short of expectations. Satisfying these CVMs are the customers’ priorities and thus indicate the additional value that customers want from solutions to get a job done better.

Overshot value targets indicate CVMs that are over satisfied by available solutions. This happens when solutions become bloated with features that customers don’t value. Beyond a certain point, that additional value ceases to have any utility with respect to getting a job done well. Scaling back on these CVMs lowers the cost structure of a solution, thereby increasing the profit margin (and potentially reducing complexity of the solution as well).

Must-be value targets indicate CVMs that are appropriately satisfied by solutions. As such, customers expect that all job solutions will satisfy these needs at current performance levels. Solutions that don’t meet these expectations will be devalued by customers which is why these are called “table stakes.” The appropriate action is to maintain current satisfaction levels for these CVMs at the least possible cost.

Indifferent value target indicates that customers aren’t sure of or haven’t considered before how the satisfaction of certain CVMs can help them get a job done better. The appropriate action is to either discover a way to increase the importance of these CVMs or minimize the cost associated with these needs until a way can be found to increase their importance.

With an exhaustive set of value targets in hand, companies have a spec for creating solutions that customers want before they actually develop those solutions. Companies can use their resources efficiently to create new products and services that help customers get jobs done better than competing solutions at the lowest possible cost to the provider.

The reiterate, Customer Value Metrics are the criteria customers use to gage how well a job gets done. Value targets are prioritized CVMs that define the value customers want from solutions to get a job done better. The JTBD Framework is the only comprehensive method for understanding the relationship between customer needs and customer value, something that has long eluded practitioners and scholars alike.

Read Why Entrepreneurs and Companies Struggle with Innovation for further discussion on the confusion between customer needs and customer value.

Deeper Dive:
Jobs-to-be-Done Framework: Part 1
Jobs-to-be-Done Framework: Part 2
Jobs-to-be-Done Framework: Part 3
Jobs-to-be-Done Framework: Part 4
Jobs-to-be-Done Framework: Part 5
Jobs-to-be-Done Framework: Part 6




How customers prioritize a set of Customer Value Metrics for importance and satisfaction changes over time. This is due to the dynamic nature of job circumstance, which can also change the efficiency/effectiveness of solutions-in-use. Further, competing solutions are getting better, faster and/or cheaper. As customer priorities change, the value they want from solutions also changes. This shifting in the prioritization of CVMs over time is called the value lifecycle of a product or service.

Therefore, it’s essential to perform Value Target Analysis from time to time to reveal any changes in CVM priorities for all products and services. When customer priorities shift, it becomes clear when to —

  • Scale-up undershot dimensions of value that are not yet good enough, thereby increasing the perceived value of a solution.
  • Scale-down overshot dimensions of value, thereby reducing the cost structure of a solution. This increases pricing flexibility without necessarily decreasing profit margin.
  • Maintain must-be dimensions of value at the least cost that are important and appropriately satisfied.
  • Explore indifferent or latent dimensions of value that can signal opportunities to help customers get a job done better in ways they haven’t considered before (thereby surprising and delighting customers).

Adjusting value targets over time enables companies to keep their solutions positioned as the best value among competing alternatives at the lowest possible cost. This is the essence of Value Lifecycle Management.

Deeper Dive: 
Value Lifecycle Management




The purpose of market segmentation is to define customer groups that share a uniform set of needs that can be profitably satisfied by products and services. At the most fundamental level, the difference between conventional market segmentation methods and the jobs-based segmentation approach is the primary unit of analysis for grouping customers. For conventional segmentation, the primary unit of analysis is the attributes of customers’ themselves. The primary unit of analysis for jobs-based segmentation is a job that customers are trying to get done.

Deeper Dive:
Jobs-Based Segmentation: Part 1
Jobs-Based Segmentation: Part 2




A high-level job gets done by executing a number of prime jobs that are collectively capable of generating a diverse set of success outcomes. These prime jobs have a relationship to the high-level job to which they are bound, which is why they are called related jobs.

Deeper Dive:
High-Level Jobs




High-level jobs get done by “stacking” multiple related jobs which is called Job stacking behavior. A job stack delineates how related jobs are arranged and coordinated to get a high-level job done. At the top of a job stack is a single high-level job. The related jobs that are stacked for the purpose of getting that job done are shown below.

Deeper Dive:
Job Stacking Behavior




Customers seek out job stack solutions for good reasons. First, job stack solutions consist of a combination of well-integrated services, which significantly reduces the time, effort and cost of coordinating related jobs. Second, job stack solutions enable customers to arrange related jobs that are capable of satisfying a diverse set of needs for a high-level job. And third, job stack solutions are typically significantly less expensive than cobbling together a number of products and/or services from multiple independent providers.

Deeper Dive:
Job Stack Solutions




The customers’ needs with respect to getting a high-level job done have to do with satisfying high-level outcomes and efficiently coordinating related jobs. Stated another way, a high-level job gets done well to the extent that customers are able to arrange related jobs that are capable of satisfying high-level outcomes and the extent to which they can efficiently coordinate those related jobs.

Deeper Dive:
Needs for High-Level Jobs




Customers often execute the same or similar jobs over and over again for two reasons. First, there’s reoccurring job execution. Prime jobs and combination high-level jobs are repeatedly triggered by occurrences.

Second, there’s continual job execution. Many related jobs in job stacks must be continually executed to satisfy high-level outcomes, which involves transforming or transitioning someone or something over time. Other related jobs must be continually executed to make continuous progress; that is, to maintain wanted states, situations and conditions.

Deeper Dive:
Job Execution Cycles




When customers have an intention in mind, they set out to effectuate that intention. That is, they put that 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.

Deeper Dive:
The Progress Hierarchy




All too often it’s assumed that because a product or service offers a significant improvement over competing solutions that customers will recognize the difference and make the switch. But once a new solution is launched, companies are often surprised when customers do not switch as expected, despite being offered a seemingly superior solution. What’s going on here?

Looking at customer switching behavior through the lens of the Forces of Progress explains how a seemingly superior solution can fail to motivate a switch. There are clearly hidden forces surrounding customer choice. Companies can either leverage these forces to their benefit or ignore them and put their innovation efforts at risk.

Deeper Dive:
The Forces of Progress




Value proposition design begins with defining customer jobs. However, when using the Value Proposition Canvas with the JTBD Framework, we suggest identifying a single target job that customers are struggling to get done rather than multiple jobs, problems or tasks. A single job will have functional, emotional and social dimensions, which are wanted success outcomes.

For a target customer job, pains are then defined as the moments of struggle associated with performing job activities. In the customers’ mind, performing these activities require too much time, effort and expense. Gains are defined as the success outcomes that customers are aiming for as they perform job activities, which represent the progress that customers want to make.

Deeper Dive:
JTBD With the Value Proposition Canvas




What makes JTBD very effective is that it lies on a theoretical foundation. As such, it explains “why” and therefore predicts customer buying choices. This is an important distinction because when a company knows in advance the value that customers want to get a job done well, that company can focus their innovation efforts on creating new products and services that enable customers to get those jobs done better than competing solutions.

Further, it become much clearer how to enhance existing products and services to keep them positioned as the best value among competing alternatives throughout the product lifecycle of those offerings.

Deeper Dive:
The Benefits of Jobs To Be Done

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