Interview: Leveraging the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework

moestaInterview by Saikrishna Chavali

Bob Moesta is one of the original innovators around the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework. As his foreword to an equally awesome book, Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done, emphasizes, “It’s helped me create and launch more than 3,200 products and services to date, with many more to come.” Intercom, Basecamp & WeChat among many other fast-growing startups across the world are vocal promoters of this approach. With such success, you’ll find his insights applicable to your work, whether you’re a burgeoning behemoth or a spunky startup!

For more in-depth and live discussion with Bob Moesta in-person, don’t miss our BPMA monthly event on June 2nd. In this wide-ranging interview, we explore the JTBD framework at work and at home.

Let’s start with your firm through which you’re spreading the JTBD framework. What is The Rewired Group?

This is my 6th startup. The Rewired Group is a boutique innovation coaching/consulting firm. We help companies develop and launch new products, be it startups or F500 firms using the JTBD framework.

Our approach is to work on our clients’ products side-by-side with them on short, JTBD-filled 90-day work blocks.

This focus builds the necessary organisational muscle and innovation skill in using tools and processes in JTBD. After the fact, we explain the method and tools.

What’s the history behind the JTBD framework?

I learned a lot from Dr. Taguchi and Dr. Deming. They talked a lot about jobs or functions [of a market/customer] rather than solving technical problems. Engineers are taught finding and solving technical problems. However, we don’t usually understand the basic functions of our users. So, the seeds of JTBD came from that.

It started with what job(s) does a system/product/service do?

The switch flipped on for me when I realised that the market or the consumer valued getting only certain jobs done. In contrast, the engineer/geek in me wanted to help with all of their jobs!

Ultimately, we came to the notion of demand-side jobs – based on value assigned by the consumer. This is how you create new products.

Let’s get a bit more theoretical. Many of our PMs are technical, of course. What are the fundamentals of the JTBD framework?

Embedded in the framework is the notion of progress or lack thereof. The forces of progress revolve around four questions.

  • Why is the consumer pushing away from current situation?
  • Why is your product pulling them towards new behavior?
  • What are the consumer’s allegiances to current behavior
  • What are their anxieties towards any new habits?

In short, understand the notions of push, pull, anxiety and habit when there is change between products. This helps to get at the value code behind why they’re firing an existing process & product and hiring something else to start anew. If you don’t have the context around the jobs, there’s lots of feature creep. You can stop the creep by addressing the most valuable jobs to be done so that the customers make progress.

Moving onto your personal life, you have a unique mentorship process or framework. Tell us more.

I’ve been blessed with great mentors. I’ve struggled with talking about how I found them and how they found me. But, mentoring has a very, very important role in my growth. It’s with people who have mutual interest and common vector of progress. I try to do it as often as I can but I also put very stringent rules around it. At the end of the day, both of us have to get something out of it. Understanding at what point you become peers is key to framing the relationship.

Most mentor relationships break down because the mentee believes they’re at the mentor’s level and the mentor feels otherwise. A strange and awkward conversation usually ensues. The moment when you become peers, that’s when the magic happens. Now both of you can go to the next level.

When I look back, that’s what I learned from my mentors. The more that they accepted me as a peer, the quicker we could do things. They were always open to being my mentor and guiding me at first.

How do you know when the relationship becomes more of a peer-to-peer level?

You need to talk about the progress that the mentee wants to make and the experiences in the mentor’s history. I believe it’s when the mentee starts to ask questions and shape how I think. When they start influencing me, the job almost changes. That’s when I acknowledge they are a peer not a mentee.

Suppose I learn about a tool, I teach them the tool. They come back and chat about extensions and new ideas growing from said tool. That’s when they’re a peer.

Ryan Singer is a very good example of that. I was a mentor to him, in terms of jobs methods and tools. Not only did he learn it, but we talk once every two weeks about how to think and articulate jobs to others.

By the way, Ryan Singer is the head designer (Product Manager according to LinkedIn) at Basecamp. Jason Fried (a Basecamp founder) is another one of those. In some cases they mentor me. It’s just much more of a peer relationship.

Lastly, have you ever use the JTBD framework in your family? Or do you just follow the old adage, “Don’t bring your work home?!”

To their detriment, yes I have! They roll their eyes whenever I ask the fundamental JTBD questions. What are they struggling with, what do they want to get to, why do they want it and what are their anxieties.

I have a methodology based around helping people buy. It’s sales for non-sales people and I use that on my children all the time. All of a sudden when I start asking questions, my kids will go, “Dad, come on! Stop it!”.

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