[Pt. 3] Defining the “Job” in Jobs to be Done

This is a 5 part series on understanding the different flavors of JTBD and how to decide which is most appropriate to help you meet your innovation goals.


If you want to apply your understanding of your customers Jobs to be Done to create impactful products and services, you need to know what Jobs are in question. Seems simple, but right off the bat there are some differences in terminology.


Peter Drucker (Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 1985)

  • Process need, unlike the other sources of innovation, does not start out with an event in the environment, whether internal or external. It starts out with the job to be done.
  • It is task-focused rather than situation-focused. It perfects a process that already exists, replaces a link that is weak, redesigns an existing old process around newly available knowledge.

Clay Christensen (The Innovator’s Solution, 2003)

  • Customers — people and companies — have “jobs” that arise regularly and need to get done.
  • When customers become aware of a job that they need to get done in their lives, they look around for a product or service they can ‘hire’ to get the job done
  • Their thought processes originate with an awareness of needing to get something done, and then they set out to hire something or someone to do the job as effectively, conveniently and inexpensively as possible.
  • The functional, emotional and social dimensions of the jobs that customers need to get done constitute the circumstances that they buy.
  • The jobs that customers are trying to get done or the outcomes that they are trying to achieve constitute a circumstance-based categorization of markets.
  • Companies that target their products at the circumstances in which customers find themselves, rather than at the customers themselves, are those that can launch predictably successful products. Put another way, the critical unit of analysis is the circumstance, and not the customer.

Tony Ulwick (What Customers Want, 2005)

  • There are three different types of jobs that customers are often trying to get done in a given circumstance: functional jobs and personal and social jobs (two types of emotional jobs).
  • Functional jobs define the tasks people seek to accomplish, personal jobs explain the way people want to feel in a given circumstance, and social jobs clarify how people want to be perceived by others.

Clay Christensen (Article: Finding the Right Job for Your Product, 2007)

  • A job is the fundamental problem a customer needs to resolve in a given situation.
  • Products don’t engender emotions. Situations do.
  • To provide the complete set of functional, emotional and social experiences in purchase and use that will sum up to nailing the job perfectly, the situation — rather than the customer — must be the fundamental unit of marketing analysis.

Tony Ulwick (Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice, 2016)

  • People buy products and services to get a job done. The job the end user is trying to get done is the core functional job.
  • The core functional job is the anchor around which all other needs are defined. It is defined first, then the emotional, related and consumption chain jobs are defined relative to the core functional job.
  • Leave emotional and other needs out of it. When defining the core functional job make sure it is defined as a functional job, not as a hybrid functional/emotional/social job. A functional job does not have social and emotional dimensions. The emotional and social jobs related to the core functional job are defined in a series of separate emotional job statements.
  • A job is stable; it doesn’t change over time
  • A job has no geographic boundaries
  • A job is solution agnostic

Clay Christensen (Competing Against Luck, 2016)

  • A job is the progress that an individual seeks in a given circumstance
  • Jobs are never simply about the functional — they have important social and emotional dimensions, which can be even more powerful than functional ones
  • Jobs to be Done are ongoing and recurring. They’re seldom discrete “events”

Jim Kalbach (Mapping Experiences, 2016)

  • The concept of Jobs to be Done provides a lens through which to understand value creation.
  • The framework looks at customer motivations in business settings.
  • Jobs to be done are ultimately about an underlying need and desired outcomes.
  • Viewing value creation in this way shifts focus from the psycho-demographic aspects of individuals to their goals and motivations. It’s not about the user but about usage.
  • The context of the job is critical to understand.
  • Jobs to be done is an existing framework that helps view value from an individual’s standpoint. The practice looks at why people “hire” products and services to reach a desired outcome.

Jim Kalbach (Article: A Practical Model for Jobs To Be Done (JTBD), 2016)

  • Typically, a JTBD is expressed in terms of its functional job. Because of this some people have the misconception that JTBD is the same as task analysis.
  • The context of the job is also part of the model. (Situation, Motivation and Desired Outcomes)
  • Jobs theory sees people as goal-driven actors.
  • The job is really about progress toward a goal.
  • The JTBD approach shows causality — why they behave the way they do.
  • Jobs to be Done can be used to 1. Understand the Market, 2. Design for the Market, 3. Talk to the Market, 4. (Re)define Markets.

Alan Klement* (When Coffee and Kale Compete, 2016)

  • A Job is one’s emotional struggle to make life better.
  • It’s Done when one finds the right solution to overcome that struggle and make that better life happen.
  • A JTBD is purely emotional. Tasks, activities, or functionality describes solutions for Jobs.

Updated Dec 2017: Klement’s definition of a #JTBD is now tied to purchase behavior. He has recently stated that he is solely interested in researching customer demand, and it’s up to others to drive strategy and make decisions.

  • A Job to be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to transform her existing life-situation into a preferred one, but cannot because constraints are stopping her
  • A JTBD should describe demand only — why consumers would want to consumer (sp) a product, service or technology
  • Most product purchases are not to fulfill a JTBD
  • If I’m buying and using the same types of products I’ve always used, I’m executing habits.
  • If I’m executing a habit, I’m not interested in progress. I have no JTBD.
  • “Get from A to B” is not a JTBD.
  • A JTBD explains why I changed my historical use of the market. I used to own a car but then I switched to Uber. Why? I desired change.

This is a stark departure from any previous interpretation of Jobs to be Done. In the opinion of this author, this is not an ‘evolution of Jobs Theory’. This does not help aspiring innovators create better products/services. It’s included here for completeness, but not recommended.


If you’re looking to hand over your JTBD research to your product and engineering teams to execute on, you’re going to get some pushback if you walk in with a description of a customers’ emotional struggle. If you show up with some direction of how the product should be improved to help the user, they can dive right in.

There’s a lot of literature on Jobs to be Done. Keep in mind the progress you and your team are trying to make before you hire one approach or another. And now, onto the struggle!


Learned something? Click the 👏 to say “thanks!” and help others find this article.

Andrea Hill is the principal consultant at Frameplay. Frameplay is an innovation consultancy that helps companies become more customer-focused and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Learn more at frameplay.co