Jobs To Be (UN) Done

by Paul Hobcraft

Is it to keep everyone employed in developing and launching new products, to keep our innovation structures humming along or just because it is expected from us?

Surely the job to be done might be “to reduce the product failure rate” – the end need is to get into the innovation pipeline only high-value products that are sustainable, offer clear market differentiation and have a distinct demand. Often we allow products into the development pipeline that are less than stellar.

Actually we have a wide range of reasons for ensuring failure before the product even gets launched. These are the jobs-to-be-UNDONE that need to be eliminated.

Can you spot these happening within your organization? Do you sense you have seen or been part of this set of actions that had the triggering effect of altering the product from its original discovery point.

Failure Points Activity outcome and its potential impact on failure
Inattention Someone decides to deviate from the original detailed specifications and this impacts significantly on the JtbD originally identified but accepted internally as ‘an acceptable’ risk, without any tracking back and validating this ‘internal’ change and how it compromises the original need.
Lack of Ability The skills, conditions or training to execute the JtbD that has been identified, so as to successfully translate this back into a product that delivers on this need are not available within the organization. They are not brought in to offset this lack of internal ability, it becomes ‘let’s reinvent here’ failing to understand critical experience points.
Deviance The internal process suddenly gets short-circuited to speed up the process, the missing ingredient of understanding gets overridden by this need for speed or someone up top overrides the process and the deviance has a knock on effect that (radically) alters the final product intent.
Process Inadequacy The discovery and development process are faulty, they miss critical signs or ignore them and keep pushing on to keep to the prescribed project time line for fear of being singled out. To call stop is bad and indicates weakness not strength, so the process continues regardless
Uncertainty The initial idea lacks the type of real clarity researchers require, gaps begins to be filled in by one person’s assumption, that was ‘best’ judgement and ‘reasonable’ but produces undesired results that are difficult to call a stop too. Actions adjust going forward with future consequences
Task Challenge The task becomes far too difficult to execute reliably every time and the eventual production quality becomes variable and compromised and the products lacks consistency on that final finish and fails to meet the expectancies of the customer
Process Complexity Those well laid out plans, built on a complex final production layout suddenly encounter constant and sometimes novel interactions unexpected and cost overruns, delays, final product rejections all suddenly rise with variable final product results that should have been unacceptable but forced to be acceptable, but on to the consumer.
Hypothesis Testing The hypothesis sounded great, it was heavily backed as a winner but suddenly fails, sometimes when capital commitments have been made. Instead of simply ‘pulling the plug’ it begins to have a momentum of its own, heads go down to prove the hypothesis irrespective.
Exploratory Testing Some adjustments or experimentation made it into the final product, it was meant to be a clever addition to expand knowledge and cater to the JtbD need but has undesired results unforeseen or not thought through.

Tackling the internal JtbD is not easy. While we deviate, while we let internal interpretations into our new product development process we are building in the chance of product failure.

Managing the internal JtbD really does need thinking about.

Knowing the need of our customers and markets is the place that will get us towards growing our business. Yet we do need to focus more often on the failures we have in the internal Job to be Done to actually improve our product success rate. Internal ego’s and the innate wish to constantly meddle along the innovation development process seem to have many jobs that need to be undone.

We need as much internal discipline to stay focused and true to a discovered customer need within our internal processes and pipeline.

How often does a product in its development get altered to accommodate internal wishes? This internally driven perspective, intent on ‘just’ getting the product out of the door, because keeping it in its original state seems simply too hard for all sorts of reasons. The emotional factors kick in and you hear “compromise and cannibalise” and a host of other fear factors to protect existing products, systems or structures that are ‘turf’ driven.

Internally we have this need to identify the true internal jobs-to-be-done and that often centers around deviations from the “customer need discovery point” and it is these which might be causing more failure than you realized, well before any product gets launched. These internal failures need to be undone.

This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have republished it here.

image credit: escapingnewyork.com

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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Find him @paul4innovating

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