People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill…
they want a quarter-inch hole.
Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School professor
Professor Levitt’s observation is an astute one. It focuses on outcomes rather than means. Why does this matter? It’s valuable to free one’s thinking, away from using what’s already known and toward what one wants to accomplish. In so doing, new ways to better accomplish objectives can be identified. Areas that are ripe for improvement and innovation.
That framing is essential to the concept of jobs-to-be-done. Here’s my working definition for the concept:
A job-to-be-done is something we want to accomplish. It consists of individual tasks and our expectation for each of those tasks. We rate the fulfillment of the expectations to determine how satisfied we are with a given job-to-be-done.
How does jobs-to-be-done differ from typical process or product analysis? It starts from the objective a person has, and in a sense works backward from there. It’s the non-negotiable needs and the “I’d-also-like” wants. That mentality differs from only tweaking existing processes and functionality, although certainly those actions are part of it as well.
Getting analytical with jobs-to-be-done
High level jobs-to-be-done often consist of a series of individual tasks. Each task contributes to the overall satisfaction with the job. For instance, imagine you consider this to be a job-to-be-done: Understand the charge-off risk for a newly delinquent customer. Possible tasks associated with that:
- Assess prior transaction history
- Get current contact information
- Contact the customer
- Understand customer’s current situation
- Make a determination of repayment risk
Analysis of the individual tasks for a job-to-be-done consists of three elements, outlined below:
Dissatisfaction: Is a given task meeting your expectations? You’ll know dissatisfaction if you answer, “Well not really. But we deal.” Some individual tasks are more important than others. Those more important ones are the ones to pay particular attention to, as they impact overall satisfaction more.
Solution improvement: Consider different ways the outcomes for a given task could be improved. How well do they improve satisfaction? Do they allow existing well-satisfied tasks to continue operating as-is?
Cost: The acid test for any improvement: what’s it gonna cost? There’s the cash expense. But there are other costs as well. Learning costs. Things you cannot do with the new solution that you currently can with your incumbent approach. The costs will be balanced against the increased satisfaction the new solution delivers.
One of the key things for me when I came into the organization was to really take a deep dive and understand where we were as an organization, and defining then where we wanted to be. I think this initial step’s crucial in understanding where you want to be. And really just taking an assessment of all the activities and processes that are completed in your organization, right, sit back and say, Okay, what do we do now. What are all of our processes: define them out, who owns them, what are they, and then identify those things that we do well.
Secondly, go back and say, okay, what are the things where we have gaps or where we have risks.
And then really map that out and put a roadmap for how we’re going to get there.
Think about your own collections operations. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many credit collections groups to assess their current operations. If you wanted to improve collections performance this coming year, is it enough to tweak some processes? Or would you benefit from a more holistic jobs-to-be-done analysis?
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