4 Ways to Level-up your Product Strategy

Developing your product strategy and communicating your product roadmap is a continual improvement process. Over my time as a product manager I have learned from some incredible product teammates on how to level up your product strategy to ensure it is as informed as possible, and communicated to your organisation’s stakeholders and customers in the [...]


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Jobs to be Done by Joe Leech

In this MTP Engage Manchester talk, using a simple example, Joe Leech demonstrates how we can employ the “Jobs to be done” framework, deconstructing company outputs and examining the importance of user stories.

Key Points:

  1. Evaluate the competitive space
  2. Don’t just think function – emotional and social job stories are significant
  3. You can’t rely on users to do your selling
  4. The hole is not the goal

Joe explains how he had a Job to be Done – he needed to hang a picture, therefore, he needed a drill. He started by looking up drills, reading specifications he didn’t understand; asking questions like “how many torque settings” and “what’s a torque setting?”. It didn’t take him long to realise that he didn’t want a drill at all.

While choosing a drill he recounted the popular adage: “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole” and then dismissed it. “Nobody needs a hole” he explains, but what he wanted was a picture on the wall – “the hole is not the goal,” he tells us.

JOe Leech at MTP EngageJoe explains how, as a former “UX guy, now a product guy” he coaches teams to think in this way, helping them make decisions, interrogating what the user thinks they want (or what the company thinks the user thinks they want), to uncover the true needs. He helps companies “do the right things, in the right order, for the right reasons” and in order to do that you need to know your users and your competition.

Uncover your Competition

Joe describes a time when the Jobs to be Done framework was employed to the benefit of MoMA (Museum of modern art). They had a requirement to attract New Yorkers to the New York museum. Joe’s first question was: “who are your competitors?”.

To which they starting listing similar attractions:

  • The Met
  • The theatre
  • The ballet
  • The Tate in London

It was clear, as with many businesses, that we don’t always know exactly who the competition is. And even when we do one day, we can be wrong the next, and our users may have something totally different in mind. So Joe went out and asked real users about the Job to be Done – who’s competing for your time? What else would you be doing on a Friday night? The answer – Netflix.

That’s right, every Friday MoMA and Netflix go head to head. Sometimes it’s a different competitor, sometimes they win, but importantly, they are always in competition. It’s true for your business too, regardless of how secure you feel in your industry, you are always competing.

You can start employing the Jobs to be Done framework today and uncover your competition, but first, you need to tailor your user stories.

Consider Your User

Joe explains how the average power drill is used between six and 20 minutes in its lifetime…that’s a failure of the product. A consumer is presented with an opportunity for self-betterment – a chance to evolve and grow – and what they buy doesn’t meet that requirement, meaning they’re consuming but not satisfied.

This case is what Joe calls “the little hire”. Apps have the same problem, he explains, with 25% of downloaded apps being only used once, while most are built to satisfy more than a one-off Job to be Done. It’s a prevalent characteristic of startups which will offer a one-time purchase, providing only a short term fix. And while that’s fine for cashflow, it shows a lack of foresight and may leave customers only temporarily satisfied. You’ve presented your user with a hole.

Joe identifies the different kinds of jobs we can use to create a rich user story, allowing us to better sell, market, design and build our products:

Functional jobs

This is simply the goal your user wishes to achieve. In Joe’s case, he wanted to put up a picture, straight not crooked, and he wanted the room to look nice. In product, we often take functional jobs as our full user stories, because they’re the essence of the requirement, and we may prioritise speed and efficiency of function over all else.

Emotional and social jobs

These are based on how the user wants to feel/be perceived while completing their job.

Joe wanted to feel capable and confident in his abilities (even with no formal skills) and feel safe knowing his picture wasn’t going to fall down in a week. An emotional or social job can inform how complex you make something. It’s the part of the story that makes you consider, is this user-friendly? Will my user come back to use this again?

Joe leech at MTP Engage ManchesterJoe highlights the importance of being user-focussed, describing how you shouldn’t just look at competitors and features, obsessing over what everyone else is doing and copying it, instead, focus on your users and their needs.

In the end, he bought Unibond (plastic adhesive strips), to put up his picture. It wasn’t trying to be a drill, it didn’t come with 230 screws, it just put up pictures.

Evaluating the Competitive Space

Once you understand what your product does and how it can help your users you can start to analyze your competitive space, approaching it with intention.

Joe describes that you need to look at several factors when evaluating your product’s position. Ask your users and yourself:

  1. What’s happening now?
  2. What’s the latest solution?
  3. What is the perceived risk that it might fail?
  4. What attachments to traditional solutions exist?

Map your product as well as your competitors, consider whether you’re the new way and need to break attachments and reduce perceived risk, or to strengthen your position with loyal users and combat new competitors. What’s important is that you know how to compete and more importantly, that you uncover the hidden needs of your users.

The World of Whitegoods

Lastly, Joe describes the front room of a whitegoods store as a place that is designed with an awareness of job stories. The room layout is made up of fridges at the front, surrounded by space, with washing machines piled high at the back, barely in sight.

Joe explains how the fridge is often the centrepiece of the kitchen taking on many jobs:

  • A communication centre – holding vouchers, tickets, telephone numbers
  • A toy – covered in magnets or stickers
  • A gallery – with pictures and collages stuck to the sides
  • A visual element – a crisp clean aesthetic piece

What’s clear is a fridge has emotional and social jobs to perform, while a washing machine is function; you buy one when it’s broken down, you need to know the size and you want to know it works, you don’t care how it looks.

Looking at the John Lewis website, Joe identifies how all whitegoods are sold in the same way – a front-on picture. It’s plain and most of the screen is given to the specs. Joe scrolls past the fridge, straight to the reviews and sees one user describes how the product “looks beautiful”. The user is selling; they’re highlighting the product’s ability to meet their Job to be Done, even if the website isn’t marketing effectively.

JOe Leech on the MTP ENgage stage

What this illustrates, is how we should all look closer at the products we’re selling because however similar they appear, even if functionally different, they might be performing incredibly different emotional and social jobs. With that knowledge, we can consider how to promote, sell, ship and design those products. Jobs to be Done is getting businesses on board with user-centred focus, moving from output to outcome, identifying competitors through their users and then evaluating and targeting their competitive space.

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