Finding Opportunities with Job Maps

JTBD Toolkit
8 min readNov 21, 2021


Creating a job map is an important step in understanding a target job. I think of a job map as the scaffolding that frames your innovation effort into smaller chunks. Below is an example of a map for a job I was investigating a few years ago.

It’s important to remember that the answers to your questions don’t magically emerge from a job map. It’s a fairly un-opinionated artifact by itself. Instead, to find innovation opportunities, you have to put the map into action. There are several ways to do this, from simple inspection techniques to more rigorous quantification. Here are four approaches you can take:

1. Reflect on Areas for Opportunity

If a job is an objective someone is trying to accomplish, the job map shows the sequences of sub-goals to get it done. Once completed, ask yourself these questions to evaluate where your opportunities may lie:

  • Where do people struggle the most to get the job done?
  • What causes the job to get off track?
  • Can you eliminate or combine steps along the way?
  • Is there a more efficient order of steps in performing the job?v
  • How might you help job performers get more of the job done?

One specific approach for this type of assessment is outlined in the book The Innovators Guide to Growth (2008) by Scott Anthony et al. Their scoring sheet allows you to systematically assess job steps along several dimensions. You can do this alone, in a team, or ask job performers directly for their input.

STEP 1: Assess each job step. List all of the steps on the left side and rate each on a scale of 1–5 for the following:

  • Is the job important to the job performer? (1=not important, 5=very important)
  • Does this step occur relatively frequently or repeatedly? (1=infrequently, 5=very frequently)
  • Is the customer frustrated by the inability to get the job done with today’s solutions? (1=frustrated, 5=not frustrated)

STEP 2: Score each step. Calculate a score for each job step using the following equation: (importance)+(frequency)x(frustration).

STEP 3: Rank by score. The higher the score, the greater the potential opportunity for that step. Focus on the steps that get the highest scores first and consider solutions to better support each.

2. Assess Your Offering Performance

A job map shows the stages and steps of getting a job done independently of any product, technology, or solution. Once completed you can then directly compare your offering back to the job map to find weaknesses, gaps, and potential points of intervention. I recommend doing this as a cross-functional team. The exercise is fairly straightforward in five simple steps:

STEP 1: Review job map. Read through the steps in the job map. Remind the team that a job map isn’t a customer journey map. You’re not trying to understand how they find your offering and why they might buy it. Instead, a job map illustrates the steps in the process of getting a job done. Get a general understanding of how the job process unfolds and have a conversation to make sure everyone is one the same page. This might take 30 minutes or so.

STEP 2: Assess. Ask everyone to individually assess how well your solution performs in supporting job performers at each stage. You can use a simple scale from 1–5 or similar. I like using American school grades, which go from A to F, with F being the worst. Do this so that others don’t see the scores as they are being assigned. Allow for 20 minutes or so for this step.

STEP 3: Discussion. Go over the scores as a group. If there is an area where everyone agrees performance is poor, have a discussion as to why. You might also find that scores vary — one person gave your offering an A and another one an F. What does the second person know that the first one doesn’t? What evidence can be provided to come to agreement? If conversations at this point are rich, you might need 30 minutes or more.

STEP 4: Find “Hot Spots.” Identify the one or two points in the job map that present the biggest opportunity for innovation. Where can you better support getting the job done? Circle those moments and have a discussion around the underlying issues and pain points.

STEP 5 Ideate: Finally, you’ll want to brainstorm ways to address the opportunities you identify. This will move the conversation from the problem space into the solution space. Keep all kinds of types of innovation in mind, not just product or service innovation (e.g., process innovation, brand innovation, innovative partnerships, etc.).

3. Compare Your Offering To Competitors

Traditional competitive analysis usually involves a direct comparison of a list of product features, services, or prices. Then, it’s a matter of seeing which aspects are present for each solution and which aren’t. This approach assumes that solutions to be compared all come from the category and have similar features.

But what if competition comes from a disparate set of offerings? After all, any job might be solved by many different types of solutions. Here’s how to compare alternatives using the steps from a job map.

STEP 1: List steps from the job map Make a table with all of the steps from your job map going down the left column.

STEP 2: Determine solutions to compare. Select the solutions that are most relevant to compare and place them across the top of the row of the table as column headers.

STEP 3: Compare solutions. Rank how well each solution supports each job step. This can be done individually, in a small group of people, or with feedback from job performers. Rank the needs with a “low, medium, high” or similar scale.

STEP 4: Find your sweet spot. Determine the steps that are missed by others or where you perform better. The aim isn’t to find a feature that hasn’t been built, but rather what pain points people have in the process of getting the job done. When designing a new solution or when improving an existing one, use this insight into which opportunities to tackle first.

Here’s an example. This table illustrates what a comparison might look like for the job: prepare a meal. It considers three services: manually preparing a meal from scratch, using pre-cut ingredients (e.g., chopped vegetables), and full meal kit services with portioned ingredients. The relative level of satisfying each step is indicated with a simple low, medium, or high.

Such a comparison helps focus your attention to areas of most interest and highest potential. Meal kits not only help prepare ingredients, they also support deciding what to make. You can then ask, How might other solutions support that part of the process? The ensuing discussion in a team will be much more focused following this systematic approach.

4. Survey Job Performers

Create a survey that asks about the importance of each step (or how critical it is in getting the overall job done) and satisfaction getting it done with any means available (or how easy it is to get done currently). Here’s how to launch such as survey:

STEP 1: Complete a job map. Be sure to identify a complete set of steps. Make sure your steps are well-formed following the rules of job statements. Also strive to make each step self-evident and as clear as possible.

STEP 2: Create a survey. Make a survey that consists of desired outcome statements as the main items. Pair each statement with two scales: one for importance and one for satisfaction. The result is that each items in the survey will look like this:

[job step 1]

How important is this to you? [scale of 1–10]

How well can you achieve this today with any means available? [scale of 1–10]

STEP 3: Launch the survey. Send the survey to job performers. The broader the domain of your main job, the more participants you’ll need. The low end of your sample size should be more than 150, extending into the thousands from there.

STEP 4: Find opportunities. From the data, you can plot the scores for each step on a two-by-two matrix, called the important satisfaction matrix. In the image below, each of the circles represents a job step and where it would be plotted on the matrix given scores received from a quantitative sample of job performers.

This gives rise to four zones of opportunity:

  • Upper right — Competitive: These steps are important, but job performers currently don’t have difficulty getting them done. You’ll want to pay attention to how you support these and not slip behind the competition. But there may not be too many new opportunities here.
  • Upper left — Overserved: These steps are unimportant and job performers can get them done easily. They are what we call overserved needs. Focusing here will not give you a big return.
  • Lower left — Nice to haves: These are both unimportant and unsatisfied. You can address the dissatisfaction, but it won’t likely give you a big bang for your buck.
  • Lower right — Unmet needs: These are called unmet needs. These steps are important and hard to satisfy. Addressing them should give you the biggest return and drive more people to your solution.

Once you know unmet needs, you can brainstorm solutions to target those steps specifically.

Final Thoughts

A job map illustrates the process of getting a job done as a series of steps. Innovation opportunities can come at any point in the job map. Consider these examples:

  • Weight Watchers streamlines initial job steps of losing weight with a system that does not require calorie counting.
  • To gather items during preparation steps while moving house, U-Haul provides customers with kits that include different types of boxes needed.
  • Nike helps joggers evaluate the success of the job in the monitoring stages of the job map with a sensor in the running shoe that provides feedback about time, distance, pace, and calories burned via a connection to an iPod.
  • Browser-based SaaS software updates automatically so users don’t have to install new versions, thereby reducing complexity in steps later in getting the job done.

The aim is to align your offering to directly address the “hot spots” or opportunities you identified. Doing so provides the strategic rationale for taking action. In this sense, a job map is a tool to foster dialog and consensus to focus your team and achieve more effective innovation.



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