What are jobs to be done intelligently?

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

ON the first day of each trimester, I require my management students to fill-up a course card containing their personal details and the following questions: What grade do you expect to receive at the end of this term? How do you intend to achieve it? If you’re the teacher, how would you maximize the learning potentials of your students? Probably, I’m the only one in our system along Taft Avenue who dares to ask these questions but I’m not here to brag about it.

For the first question, some students are brave enough to say 4.0—the highest grade possible. I wonder why they’re too timid to answer the remaining questions. The big question is—why are they willing to pay so much money for their tuition to interact with a newspaper columnist who publishes his presentation materials on Facebook?

Most students would insist on sharing their photos as part of the course card, even if they’re no longer necessary the moment I’ve memorized their names, faces, and possible fate after two meetings. With eight to10 students, that’s not impossible, especially if you’ve perfected the technique of establishing-maintaining-locking eye contacts with people and breaking their passivity by asking them recitation-like questions after seven minutes of lecture.

Psychologists have a lot of interesting interpretations on this. Unfortunately, many of them are deep-seated mistakes when applied to the millennials who are too young to understand what a “damaged culture” is all about when James Fallows wrote about in late 1980s.

Bringing the topic up is a bit uncomfortable for me, but not in the long-term when we try to analyze why the bobotante (dumb voters) still elect people based on their shallow lines on noontime shows. Ah, yes: the perils of the Filipino entertainment industry and its adverse effects on the country’s future.

But what exactly are the jobs to be done? Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and his co-authors formulated the JTBD (jobs to be done) concept in 2007: “Most companies segment their markets by customer demographics or products characteristics and differentiate their offerings by adding features and functions. But the consumer has a different view of the marketplace. He simply has a job to be done and is seeking to ‘hire’ the best product or service to do it.”

For example, people buy rat poison to keep rats out of their homes. The trouble is that rat poison can also harm humans when ingested. But if a rat poison manufacturer examines the higher purpose of killing pesky rats, then it could explore the possibility of making rat poison harmless to humans or develop a roborat—a genetically-designed rat—that could hunt and kill other rats.

The roborat would then self-exterminate after accomplishing its mission of, say, exterminating at least 1,000 rats. This is where the real power of the JTBD technique lies. It helps a would-be inventor understand the fact that customers don’t simply buy deadly rat poison. They are looking for alternative products or services to get a wide array of jobs done.

Going back to my students: What if we don’t treat them as students but as fellow teachers? One probable approach is to require them to teach the subject matter during each class and for us to act as mentors and pointing out what they’re missing by asking cerebral questions. The other students can also pitch in to make the discussion stimulating for all who are present. On another note, what if we treat students as customers?

Next question: How would you solve the problem of bobotante making a major decision on who should govern our nation? Can we simply disenfranchise them? Or why don’t we require voters to prove that they’re responsible citizens by paying their taxes, among others?

Sometimes, you need analytics to apply JTBD, but with my kaizen-mindedness, I firmly believe it requires nothing more than plain and simple math or any expert assistance from a consultant who comes to your place to tell you what’s wrong with your management style, which you already know, except that you don’t know how to solve it.

Another question comes to mind: If organizations are suffering from excessive operational costs and their executives know about it, then why can’t they solve it. Let me venture a wild guess. Business losses are a good reason why they hire temps and one good excuse not to pay correct taxes.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random thoughts.


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