Add context to narrow your job or outcome statement of interest. Change the context to change the job or outcome statement.
The following article details how to use CONTEXT to write better job statements and outcome statements.
This is an excerpt from the book, "The Statue in the Stone, Decoding Customer Motivation with the 48 Laws of Jobs-to-be-Done Philosophy."
It is used here with permission. For more on this book and jobs-to-be-done, visit www.statueinthestone.com.
Law #15: Add a context, narrow the job. Change the context, change the job.
“In the broadest context, the goal is to seek enlightenment – however you define it.”
Consider the JTBD “Learn to dance.” It’s sort of a funny job in that children dance naturally. They don’t need to be taught. But as we grow, and become more self-conscious, it gets harder. But consider this: there are many contexts for dancing. And when we define one, we narrow the scope of that job. And when we change it, we change the job. Let’s define some contexts and see how the job changes.
- Learn to dance for a party.
- Learn to dance with a new date.
- Learn to dance the “Hustle.”
- Learn to dance for my wedding.
- Learn to dance with friends.
- Learn to dance to bluegrass music.
- Learn to dance in five minutes.
- Learn to dance in front of people.
- Learn to dance by myself.
- Learn to dance for exercise.
- Learn to dance for a competition.
- Learn to dance at home.
- Learn to dance from online lessons.
When we add context, we narrow the job. The JTBD “Learn to dance” is broader than “Learn to dance for exercise.” In the latter, we’ve narrowed the job by adding the reason that we’re learning to dance with the higher job “exercise.”
Or, we could add a higher job such as “win a competition” like this: “Learn to dance to win a competition.” There are many categories of contexts to either narrow or change a JTBD. Adding a “Higher Job” is just one. Another would be to add “fellow executors,” which describes who you’re executing the job with.
For example, we can narrow “Learn to dance” to “Learn to dance with my spouse.” The spouse is a fellow executor.
We change the job with a new context when we go from “Learn to dance with my spouse” to “Learn to dance with my square-dancing class.”
Another context is location. Learn to dance at a disco. Learn to dance at a wedding. Learn to dance in my room. Learn to dance on the beach.
We could also define a product or solution to narrow the job. Learn to dance with online lessons. Learn to dance by watching others. Learn to dance with private instruction. Three different products. And three different jobs.
Add a context, narrow the job. Change the context, change the job.
Let’s look at some other scenarios. Here are eight typical (but by no means complete) categories of JTBD contexts:
- Beneficiary: For whom are you executing the job? Learn to dance for my spouse.
- Constraint: What is a constraint imposed on this job? Learn to dance in five minutes.
- Fellow job executors: With whom are you executing the job? Learn to dance with a group of friends.
- Higher job: What’s the higher job? Learn to dance for exercise.
- Inputs: What are the inputs for the job? Learn to dance from memory.
- Location: Where are you executing the job? Learn to dance in a club.
- Product: How are you executing the job? Learn to dance using online lessons.
- Time: When are you executing the job? Learn to dance for my wedding.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, only common possibilities.
Consider another example. Take the job statement, “Cook a meal.” Without a context, it’s fairly broad. We can narrow it with a location:
- Cook a meal at home.
- Cook a meal in a hotel.
- Cook a meal at a football game.
We can narrow it with time:
- Cook a meal in the morning.
- Cook a meal late at night.
- Cook a meal on Christmas Day.
We can narrow it with fellow executors, people executing the job with us:
- Cook a meal with friends.
- Cook a meal with family.
- Cook a meal with neighbors.
We can narrow it by defining a beneficiary:
- Cook a meal for my spouse.
- Cook a meal for my children.
- Cook a meal for the poor people in my community
We can narrow it by defining inputs:
- Cook a meal using organic ingredients.
- Cook a meal using vegan ingredients.
- Cook a meal with vegetables from my garden.
Some contexts could be defined as more than one context type. For example: Cook a meal using a DIY (“Do It Yourself”) kit. The kit contains ingredients, but also prescribed methods of how to cook. So, we could say that we’ve defined the inputs, or we could say that we defined the product.
Before don’t worry too much about this. The category name isn’t that critical. What is important is that if we narrow a job, we do it intentionally, not accidentally. And of course, we could list as many contexts as we want, making our JTBD of interest quite narrow. For example:
Cook a vegan meal on a gas grill with my neighbors using organic vegetables from my garden for my spouse’s 40th birthday party at midnight.
This is certainly a narrow job statement, and a ridiculous one! But hypothetically, we can combine as many contexts as we want.
However, we do have one case, a specific type of context, that does deserve special consideration: that of product definition. When we select a product, we’ve also created a specific type of job, the consumption job, the topic of our next law.
Law #16: Jobs that narrow the context with a product are called consumption jobs.
“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the customer gets out of it.”
As we just learned, adding a context narrows a job. However, we have a special name for jobs that define a product: the consumption job.
What is a Consumption Job?
We execute some jobs just for the benefits they provide. Such as lose weight, take a vacation, be entertained, or learn a new skill. Communicate with a friend, plan a wedding, diagnose an illness, or solve a crime.
However, …as soon as we select a product… a new category of job emerges: the consumption job. These are jobs that we execute as we “consume” a product.
These are tasks we execute during a product’s lifecycle, from purchase to disposal. Here’s a list of common consumption jobs:
- Search for a product
- Evaluate products
- Select a product
- Purchase a product
- Pay for a product
- Receive a product (Or the informal “get a product delivered”)
- Return a product
- Install a product
- Set up a product
- Learn to use a product
- Use a product
- Obtain support for a product
- Store a product
- Repair a product
- Maintain a product
- Upgrade a product
- Dispose of a product
Imagine you’ve moved to a new house. Your house has a lawn, and you need something to mow with. You decide to purchase a lawn tractor from a hardware store. With this decision, you are about to begin a series of consumption jobs. Jobs that will enable you to “Mow the lawn” with your chosen product, the lawn tractor. In so doing, you will:
- Purchase the tractor
- Receive the tractor, or we might better phrase this with the colloquial parlance “Get the tractor delivered.”
- Learn to use the tractor
- Use the tractor
- Store the tractor
- Repair the tractor (eventually)
- Maintain the tractor
- Upgrade the tractor – you know that you want those chrome wheels!
And eventually, you will part ways with the tractor with the job “dispose of the tractor.” Or perhaps, “sell the tractor.”
These are all consumption jobs.
How is the Consumption Job useful?
First, when we interview customers as part of our voice-of-the-customer research, we always need to be clear with our intentions. That is, if we’re trying to uncover imperfections from a primary benefit job or a consumption job. If searching for opportunities within the weight loss market, we may search for errors in either.
For example, we might first search for issues for a primary benefit job, such as lose weight. These questions would be variations of:
- What’s challenging about losing weight?
- What’s frustrating about losing weight?
- What problems have you encountered when trying to lose weight?
Next, suppose that a person mentions that they’ve tried the Weight Watchers program. In this case, we can seamlessly transition to understand consumption jobs for this product:
- What was challenging about subscribing to Weight Watchers?
- What was frustrating about using the Weight Watchers web application?
- What problems have you encountered when logging your meals with Weight Watchers?
As you make this transition during a customer interview, you certainly don’t announce, “WE ARE NOW TRANSITIONING TO PRODUCT CONSUMPTION JOBS FOR THE WEIGHT WATCHERS PROGRAM.”
But for the Michelangelo in you, just know that you’ve switched to a phase in your interview to cover consumption jobs.
People typically do not purchase products just to execute a consumption job.
More simply stated, people generally don’t want to execute consumption jobs. (We say “generally” because there are exceptions.)
Some companies foolishly believe that customers want to consume their products. But this is rarely true. The product is the “how.” It’s a means to an end.
We subscribe to Weight Watchers in order to lose weight. But not because there’s any inherent joy in the subscribing process. We learn to use a computer so that we can perform, well, many jobs. But not for the joy of learning to use a computer. We repair a lawn tractor so that we can continue to mow the lawn.
We didn’t purchase the lawn tractor just because we wanted to repair it. We also didn’t purchase it for the happiness of storing it. Neither did we purchase it because of our dream of upgrading it one day.
Of course, it’s theoretically possible that someone does subscribe to Weight Watchers for the joy of it. That’s a bit weird, but not impossible. A little less weird that someone would want to repair a car for fun. So, in some cases, a customer may execute a consumption job for the sake of it… but in general, I wouldn’t count on that. Those are the exceptions.