What is JTBD?

The Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework

We all know that people “hire” products to get jobs done. Office workers hire word-processing software to create documents. Surgeons hire scalpels to dissect soft tissue. But few companies keep this in mind while searching for ideas for breakthrough offerings. Instead, they rely on inquiry methods (such as customer interviews) that don’t always generate the most promising ideas or exhaustive sets of possibilities.

The concept of a “job” in “Jobs-To-Be-Done” is neatly encapsulated by a oft-quoted line from Theodore Levitt:

“People want a quarter-inch hole, not a quarter inch drill”.

To systematically uncover more-and better-innovative ideas use the jobs-to-be-done framework to break down the job that customers want done into discrete steps. Then brainstorm ways to make steps easier, faster, or unnecessary.

The creators of the jobs-to-be-done framework are Lance Bettencourt and Anthony W. Ulwick. In a groundbreaking Harvard Business Review article, The Customer-Centered Innovation Map, the jobs-to-be-done framework is introduced as an innovative practice.

The framework enables companies to deconstruct a job that customers are trying to get done into specific process steps. The resulting job map, provides a structure that makes it possible to capture all the customer’s needs and to systematically identify opportunities to provide value to the customer and meet their needs.

The How

All jobs have the same eight steps. To use the jobs-to-be-done framework, look for opportunities to help customers at every step:

Customers determine their goals and plan resources.

So…companies should innovate by simplifying planning.

An example would be… Weight Watchers streamlines diet planning by offering a system that doesn’t require calorie counting.

Customers gather items and information needed to do the job.

So…companies should innovate by making required inputs easier to gather and ensuring they’re available when and where needed.

An example would be… U-Haul provides customers with prepackaged moving kits containing the number and types of boxes required for a move.

Customers set up the environment to do the job.

So… companies should innovate by making set-up less difficult and creating guides to ensure proper set-up of the work area.

An example would be… Bosch added adjustable levers to its circular saw to accommodate common bevel angles used by roofers to cut wood.

Customers verify that they’re ready to perform the job.

So… companies should innovate by giving customers information they need to confirm readiness.

As an example… Oracle’s ProfitLogic merchandising optimization software confirms optimal timing and level of a store’s markdowns for each product.

Customers carry out the job.

So… companies should innovate by preventing problems or delays.

As an example… Kimberly-Clark’s Patient Warning System automatically circulates heated water through thermal pads placed on surgery patients to maintain their normal body temperature during surgery.

Customers assess whether their job is being successfully executed.

So… companies should innovate by linking monitoring with improved execution.

As an example… Nike makes a running shoe containing a sensor that communicates audio feedback about time, distance, pace, and calories burned to an iPhone or iPod worn by the runner.

Customers make alterations to improve execution.

So… companies should innovate by reducing the need to make alterations and the number of alterations needed.

As an example… Microsoft’s operating systems removes the hassle for computer users by automatically downloading and installing updates. People don’t have to determine which updates are necessary, find the updates, or ensure the updates compatible with their operating system.

Customers finish the job or prepare to repeat it.

So…companies should innovate by designing products that simplify the process of concluding the job.

As an example… 3M makes a wound dressing that stretches and adheres only to itself-not to patients’ skin or sutures. It thus offers a convenient way for medical personnel to secure dressing at the conclusion of treatment and then remove them after a wound has healed.

Other Considerations

While JTBD do include some key considerations about the emotional and social context of a user goal, they generalize them among the entire user base, and therefore miss that key sense of context about users, and lose the opportunity to create empathy among the design team.

Companies have long assumed that people will adopt new products that deliver more value or utility than existing ones. Thus, businesses need only to develop innovations that are objectively superior to incumbent products, and consumers will have sufficient incentive to purchase them. In the 1960s, communications scholar Everett Rogers called the concept “relative advantage” and identified it as the most critical driver of new-product adoption. This argument assumes that companies make unbiased assessments of innovations and of consumers’ likelihood of adopting them. Although compelling, the theory has one major flaw: It fails to capture the psychological biases that affect decision making.


Alan Klement is credited for coming up with the term “job story”. Job stories frame the user need based on the situation and context. Paul Adams, speaking about it said, “We frame every design problem in a Job, focusing on the triggering event or situation, the motivation and goal, and the intended outcome. […] We can map this Job to the mission and prioritise it appropriately. It ensures that we are constantly thinking about all four layers of design. We can see what components in our system are part of this Job and the necessary relationships and interactions required to facilitate it. We can design from the top down, moving through outcome, system, interactions, before getting to visual design.”

The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply (divergent thinking) and then taking focused action (convergent thinking).

  • Discover. The first diamond helps people understand, rather than simply assume, what the problem is. It involves speaking to and spending time with people who are affected by the issues.
  • Define. The insight gathered from the discovery phase can help you to define the challenge in a different way.
  • Develop. The second diamond encourages people to give different answers to the clearly defined problem, seeking inspiration from elsewhere and co-designing with a range of different people.
  • Deliver. Delivery involves testing out different solutions at small-scale, rejecting those that will not work and improving the ones that will.

Applying the Framework

While the canvas can be used to analyze markets in which products do not yet exist, it is often more pragmatic for an innovation champion to help a product team learn the approach by focusing on a market they are familiar with, e.g., a market they are already in. This ensures the workshop will deliver actionable results that can be implemented quickly, thus building excitement around the process.

Using the Jobs-to-be-Done Canvas, product team members — with the guidance of the facilitator — will work to gain agreement on:

  • What group of customers to target for growth.
  • What job the customer is trying to get done.
  • All the steps that comprise the customer’s job-to-be-done.
  • Associated consumption, related and emotional jobs.
  • The customer’s desired outcomes (needs) associated with getting the core and consumption jobs done.

The canvas is designed to tease out these inputs, all of which are required to make the innovation process more predictable.

A job map is a visual depiction of the core functional job, deconstructed into its discreet process steps. Unlike a process map, a job map does not show what the customer is doing (a solution view); rather, it describes what the customer is trying to get done (a needs view).


Applying JTBD framework can manifest itself in various ways. The objective is not a completed JTBD Canvas, per se, but rather a clearer vision of the needs of the customer which enable the company (your company) to better meet those needs.


This article’s content was populated entirely by the following websites in an effort to make the topic more easily understandable; some slight alterations were made to increase readability:

The creator of JTBD, Tony Ulwick’s company, Strategyn, site and main source of the steps featured in this article.

Steph Troeth wrote an absolutely amazing and informative piece for 24 Ways that provides the JTBD formula greater context and explanation, empowering its use and application. You’ll notice that the most helpful segments are from her article.

The original source, written by Lance Bettencourt and Anthony W. Ulwick.

The Nielsen Norman Group did an excellent job at comparing and contrasting JTDB framework with customer personas.

A dictionary of words used in JTBD provided by Tony Ulwick

The “how-to” guide provided by Tony Ulwick

Mike Rivera’s article explains further the Four Forces

John T. Gourville explains the The Psychology of Gains and Losses

Franco Fagioli explains the Double Diamond approach.

The Design Council is credited with creating the Double Diamonds

The Job-To-Be-Done Example / The Number 8 / The Universal Job Map / Process Making Forces / Job Story /Double Diamonds / Jobs-To-Be-Done Canvas / Skateboarder

Whenever I find myself becoming reacquainted with or researching something to apply to a project, I’ve found it’s just easiest to compile my notes here at Medium. The results of which end up being a hodgepodge of various sources and the process of which becomes one more learning experience. Plus, the generated link makes for a featured and future quick reference.




Always aspiring as a product designer. Focused on developing innovative solutions.

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L. Alonzo Webster

L. Alonzo Webster

Always aspiring as a product designer. Focused on developing innovative solutions.

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