In our previous article we proposed to transplant an old framework from Semiotics to Management. If the Job-To-Be-Done is a story, the logic went, then we should be able to analyze it as one, with Greimas’s Canonical Narrative Schema (CNS).
This time we would like to test the CNS a bit, and see if the approach has legs — or teeth. We will pick a /not so random/ example of a Job-To-Be-Done (JTBD) and apply the framework to it.
“Why would I want to do that?” — you should ask.
Because the whole point of the Job-To-Be-Done is to use it as a compass that points you towards where to innovate next in your business.
Prof. Christensen’s theory suggests that picking the JTBD is only the first step. The hard part comes next. You have to define the experience your customers should have — their customer journey — in their way to fulfilling the job.
The CNS is a tool to map that experience which helps us keep the focus on the JTBD — from its inception to customer success — thorough four stages:
- Manipulation: (without any pejorative connotation) where it is established that the customer /Wants-to-do/ and or /Has-to-do/ a Job.
- Competence: (without any meliorative connotation, either) where it is established that the customer meets the necessary requirements to do her Job, namely: that she /Knows-how-to-do/ it and that she /Is-able-to-do/ it.
- Performance: this is where the customer actually /performs/ the Job.
- Sanction: where it is evaluated if the Job was carried out successfully, and retribution is dealt, if applicable.
That is Not the Milkshake You are Looking For
Let’s look at what the CNS looks like applied to a badly chosen JTBD, from the famous milkshake example. (If you haven’t heard about this case, you should read Prof. Christensen’s HBR article: Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure first.)
We could define the Job as: “Some people need help finding and drinking the best milkshake they can have”. Within those people, we have to improve our sales.
On this stage we need to go… From: There is a market of people who want to have a milkshake. To: There is a market of people who want to have our milkshake.
This transformation is best understood as a nested job, where the roles get reversed: our product, instead of the customer, is the hero, while she is the judge:
- Nested Manipulation: Our milkshake wants to be chosen.
- Nested Competence + Performance:
- Our product acquires the attributes required to be chosen in the eyes of the customer. We get our milkshake to a state where it is-able-to-be chosen through sheer brute force repetition of advertising messages.
- Nested Sanction: The customer judges, and chooses to try our milkshake
We know-how-to make our product a worthy choice, because we did product and customer research. If we were to try to improve our sales by taking action on the I. Manipulation stage all we are left with is: more and better research, and more and better advertising. With our JTBD defined as it is there are little to no pointers as to what’s the better route.
Knowing-how-to eat or drink a milkshake comes from nature and upbringing. If we were making a TV spot, we would flashback to our customer’s early childhood with her mother.
In order for our customer to drink the milkshake, it needs to be in her possession. Another nested job comes to our help — this time the customer stays the hero:
- Nested Manipulation: She needs to be in possession of our milkshake.
- Nested Competence:
- Knows-how-to: Hopefully, advertising and/or direct marketing have told the customer the locations where our product can be found, and how much it will cost. Apart from that, she may need to know how to walk or how to drive.
- Is-able-to: We should have put our product within reasonable walking or driving distance. And our pricing should be within her reach.
- Nested Performance: She goes and buys it.
- Nested Sanction: Now she is-able-to drink it.
¿How could we improve our II. Competence stage? ¿More and better locations? Whatever that means: our JTBD won’t say. ¿Lower pricing?
III. Performance + Sanction
- The customer drinks our milkshake: We could make it easier to drink, ¿right?
- ¿Does she enjoy it? Some more research could be useful here in order to learn how to make our product more enjoyable and make it more likely that it will be tried again.
The Commute Job-To-Be-Done
Let’s now see how the better chosen JTBD behaves.
There is a market of people that face long and boring commutes to their jobs in the mornings and need help making the drive more interesting.
¿How can we do better in this stage?
As we saw above, manipulation is the stage for advertising. But now we have a clear story to tell. Show the customer how our product performs helping us get through our commute. At the same time, it will help more people identify themselves with the characters, and realize that they too had this JTBD, even if they didn’t know it.
And, of course, you will know not to play these ads on kids shows at 11 am while your potential customers are at work. Morning and evening news are great candidates, though.
Know-how-to: The customer knows that having something to eat can help her make her commute more interesting. (Hopefully, advertising has helped our product climb up her list of choices.)
Be-able-to: But she may forget to bring something from home, or prefers our milkshake anyway:
- Nested Manipulation: She needs something to eat to take with her on her commute.
- Nested Competence:
- Knows-how-to: Carefully located roadside signs let her know our milkshake is only a slight detour away.
- Is-able-to: She is already in her car, so she can drive there. We even provide a drive-through vending machine to make it more convenient.
- Nested Performance: She goes and buys it.
- Nested Sanction: Now she is-able-to make her commute more interesting.
Eventually, those roadside signs could evolve into roadside kiosks elevating even more the convenience factor. And once they are there, other snacks with a similar JTBD could be sold there.
The customer has the milkshake while driving. We already added some chunks of fruit to them so that a little surprise comes up the straw every once in a while, making the drive more interesting.
Future improvements could be:
- Sturdier disposable cups, and lids that stay in place so as to minimize accidents on bumpy roads.
- Frequent customers may want the option to purchase branded strong plastic easy-to-refill cups.
20 minutes later she is finished with her milkshake and finds herself satisfied that she was able to kill a good chunk of her commute time. Now she can focus on her podcasts.
Later that morning, she realizes that the snack still keeps hunger at bay.
- We could offer larger cups for those people with longer commutes or faster metabolisms.
I hope this example shows that the Canonical Narrative Schema (CNS) can be a useful tool to differentiate a badly chosen JTBD from a good one. The tell tale sign being how little clarity a bad JTBD provides in helping you find roads to improvement.
At the same time, the CNS paired with a better defined JTBD, is a great tool to map the customer journey and define the experience you want your customers to have. And pinpoint improvements you can make to the diverse touchpoints that constitute that experience by polishing the interactions or getting rid of old ones, and creating new ones like the roadside kiosks proposed above.