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Product Management

A DIY Jobs-to-be-Done Workshop

Two weeks ago I participated in a digital JTBD workshop with Bob Moesta and Greg Engle. The workshop was designed for JTBD practitioners who’d had some experience doing this kind of research and wanted to up their interviewing skills. After discovering Bob’s flavour of Jobs-to-be-Done during my parental leave in 2018, I had become enthusiastic for this way of doing product research. But so far, I had been entirely self-taught โ€“ based on freely available resources like conference talk recordings, podcasts, blog articles and so on. Since I’d had so much free time during my parental leave, I had enjoyed sifting through a huge mountain of podcast episodes and conference talks. But I know that there are also people who would like to learn about Jobs-to-be-Done, and do so in a more structured way while still leveraging resources that are freely available on the web.

So here is my “DIY Jobs-to-be-Done Workshop” which is loosely based on the digital workshop I did finally attend with the Re-Wired Group. The overall concept is:

  • Freshen up on the theory,
  • listen to a practice interview,
  • prepare a debrief,
  • attend the workshop,
  • do 2-3 practice interviews as homework, and finally
  • come together again to compare notes / learnings with others.

My recommendation: Do this “DIY workshop” with at least one other person. It will help you make sense of and compare your notes for the preparatory practice interview, you’ll have someone to do the homework interview with and to review homework and discuss your learnings and challenges. Trust me โ€“ your experience will be so much better.

A Primer on Jobs-to-be-Done

So, let’s start with a little reminder (or even introduction, if this is your first time hearing of JTBD). To me, this video about the Milkshake story by Clayton Christensen is the best and shortest introduction to the general idea that “people don’t buy products, they hire them to do a job”. It’ll put you right into the mindset of thinking in terms of Jobs.

In addition, the 2011 Business of Software talk on “The Job your Product Does” by Clayton Christensen is a more elaborate framing of the theory in the bigger sphere of innovation and product development.

Workshop Prep: Practice Interview & Debrief

Now that you’re mentally in the right place, it’s time to get your hands dirty for the first time. In order to prepare for the workshop, we were tasked with listening to a recording of a real Jobs-to-be-Done interview, take notes and fill out the forces diagram & timeline.

The Used Car Interview

If you are completely new to Jobs-to-be-Done, I recommend you use the “Used Car Interview” to prepare for the workshop. It’s part of a conference talk that Bob Moesta and his business partner Chris Spiek gave at Business of Software conference in 2017.

The introduction to the interview will walk you through the two core tools for debriefing an interview: The timeline and the forces diagram. The video also contains a very short debrief of the interview, so if you’re using this for your preparation, make sure to pause the video before the debrief, then do it yourself, and then continue to compare notes.

The Mattress Interview

If you’re already familiar with JTBD, the classic Mattress Interview is also a good one to use for preparation. As for the Used Car Interview, there is also a debrief for this one. No video this time, though.

Jobs-to-be-Done ยท Mattress Interview – LIVE JTBD interview, debrief & analysis (Jason Fried, Bob Moesta & Chris Spiek)

The Smartphone Interview

To give you even more options, here is one more real interview about someone purchasing a new smartphone. The audio is sometimes a bit shaky, but overall this is also a really interesting interview that I took a lot from.

The Fitness Tracker Interview

This is probably the shortest real interview by Bob Moesta on the internet. And it’s pretty damn hard to find. I once discovered it “by accident” and have found myself searching for it again countless times. It’s from a live Switch workshop that Bob held for BoS USA 2018 participants. If you’re strapped for time, this one might be for you.

Now it’s up to you: Pick one, listen and take notes. Then prepare a timeline and forces diagram.

The Workshop

I found the below webinar recording on YouTube and was surprised to see that the slides are pretty close to those used in the workshop I attended (except for a deep dive into more advanced interview technique). The webinar will be a great way for you to have a workshop-like experience, getting taught the JTBD technique by Bob himself. To round out your DIY workshop experience, I’d encourage you to watch the recording just like you were attending “the real thing”. Don’t watch it while cooking or with your phone in one hand while eating snacks on the couch. Sit at your desk, take ample notes and get into it.

Your Homework

Now this is probably the most important part of the whole experience โ€“ at least it was for me. The first part of the workshop was held on a Tuesday and we were then given one week to complete the following homework assignment:

  • Perform 2-3 actual Jobs-to-be-Done interviews. They can be with a friend or spouse (or your workshop partner/s โ€“ talking about something they recently purchased. One of them should be work related, i.e. with a customer (in my opinion).
  • Prepare a debrief for each one of them.
  • Reflect on how your technique has improved between each of the interviews, as well as where you struggle. Bring those notes to share with the group or your partner.

You should give yourselves about 1 week to complete this assignment. Shorter would mean a lot of stress finding people to interview. Longer would weaken the effect of putting into practice what you have just learned.

Because the workshop forced me to go and do some actual interviews, it let me apply what I had just learned in theory. And by that, it immediately replaced that theoretical knowledge with practical experience, which at least for me is a whole lot easier to remember.

So while I know that it’s more comfortable to just sit and watch all the videos, trust me when I urge you: the homework is what will really makes this valuable, memorable practice. Jump over your shadow and do it!

If you have questions or comments along the way, I’d love for you to reach out via twitter (@davidarens). Hope you’ve found this helpful!

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