How to Identify Unmet Customer Needs with Jobs to Be Done

I’ve been fascinated by the Jobs to Be Done approach to product design for a while now, and something that I hear quite regularly as I talk to other folks about JTBD is:

“I think I get it. But how exactly do I apply it?”

Tony Ulwick’s book, “What Customers Want” provides some answers to that question. That book is an absolute gold mine of actionable advice and insight for product designers and entrepreneurs. If you haven’t read it, get it now; you won’t regret it.

In this post, I’ll show you step-by-step how I’ve used the approach described in that book to help my clients get a much better handle on what to build, what to improve, what to leave alone, and what to ignore.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a heated debate with your team, your boss, your co-workers, or your own head and thought, “There’s got to be a better way!” This post is for you.


One of my clients brought me in to do some customer research and define the scope for v1 of a new product they’re designing. So where do you start, right? There are a hundred things the app could do … but what should it do first? Sound familiar?

I’ll go into the details for each part of the process I used to identify their most pressing customer needs, but for the skimmers, here’s the gist:

  • Run some customer interviews to gain a better understanding of the customers’ Job to Be Done.
  • Split the Job to Be Done into steps.
  • Survey the importance and satisfaction of each step of the Job to Be Done.
  • Visualize the survey results with a little Rails app I’ve built for this type of survey.

Measuring What Customers Want

The visualization of the survey data is what I’m most excited to share, but to get there, we have to begin with the Job to Be Done.

Let’s say that an example of a Job to Be Done for your customer is:

“Share beautiful pictures”

and through your interviews, you identify a small piece of the Job that is:

“Crop the photo.”

Well, how do we know if “Crop the photo” is something we should even care about?

The answer is to ask users a set of paired Importance/Satisfaction questions:

Stop and think for a second about what the answers to those two questions would tell you:

If something is not important and they’re satisfied with how they’re currently getting it done, there’s not a lot of growth opportunity in that particular feature. Don’t waste your time.

But what about something that is extremely important to a majority of your customers and they’re very unsatisfied with the current solution? Ding ding ding!

Think about how much easier grooming your backlog would be with this information. All those hours wrestling with guessing about what should or shouldn’t be part of your MVP would at least be reduced.


  • Steps that are unimportant can be pushed down the road or scrapped.
  • Steps that are important and currently satisfied are must-haves that don’t need to be re-imagined.
  • Steps that are important and unsatisfied … well now we’re talking! These are opportunities to delight existing customers, reduce support requests, and gain new customers.

Visualizing the Responses

I used Typeform to administer the survey and built a Rails app that connects to Typeform’s API to collect the response data.

Once the survey had been sent out and customers responded, my app spit out the following chart:

The colors here represent a feature category for this particular client. You don’t have to include this layer of visualization in your implementation, but check out the yellow feature. Three of the four questions about this feature’s functionality are extremely important and currently very unsatisfactory. What’s that tell you?

From our “Share beautiful pictures” example at the beginning of the post, one dot would be “Crop the photo”. Others might be “Take a photo”, “Choose a filter”, “Select a photo from my library”, and so on.

What Do the Quadrants Tell Us?

Low Importance: Don’t care.

High Importance and Highly Satisfied: Must-haves. Don’t mess it up.

Important and currently unsatisfied: Opportunity!

Prioritization Just Got Easier

Imagine that prior to conducting this type of survey, you had those 29 ideas on your whiteboard. “What should we build first?” you wonder aloud to yourself or your team.

Now take a look at that chart and ask yourself the same question:

“What should we build first?”

A little bit easier, right?

So how do you get there? Let’s dig in.

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The Process

  1. Interviews
  2. Surveys
  3. Analysis

1. Interviews

First, we conducted sixteen customer interviews that ran about 45-minutes each. We walked away with a pile of quotes, thoughts, validations, and invalidations that we would carry with us into our analysis of the survey we’d be sending during the second phase of the research.

The goal during these interviews is to understand the customer’s desired outcomes when they’re using your product so that you can ask an Importance/Satisfaction pair against each outcome and plot all their positions on the chart we saw above and your prioritization woes will be greatly diminished.

During your customer interviews, many of the desired outcomes and steps your customers share will be completely expected.

But, you’re also very likely to be shocked along the way and this is one of the most valuable things about doing these interviews.

If you’ve got an existing product I can almost guarantee that your customers are using it in ways you didn’t expect or design for. When you stumble on these instances, don’t let them slip away! Figure out why they’re “misusing” your product and hacking their way to a better experience. There’s probably something valuable in there!

How to Record Your Customers’ Desired Outcomes

When your interviewee describes a step in their workflow, your goal is to understand what progress looks like when they’re done with that step.

The folks at Strategyn call this a “Desired Outcome Statement” and they’ve got an extremely robust sentence structure for framing this progress.

Your customer wants to:

Minimize or Increase,

the Time, Cost, or Likelihood,

of The Thing.

Strategyn calls “the thing” the “object of control”, but I don’t know, that feels a little buttoned up for me.

So, if a customer using your photo sharing app to “Share beautiful pictures” tells you that the next thing they’d do after taking a photo is to “crop the picture”, don’t say:

“Is cropping important to you?”


“If we removed cropping, how would you feel?”

While answers to those questions would give you some new information, we want to get new and specific information.

Dig in and try to find the outcome they’re after when they’re cropping the photo. That’s how you’ll discover if there’s an opportunity to improve the workflow and build a better product!

Ask, “Why do you usually crop your photos?”, let them respond … “Well, usually I’m just trying to make the composition look better” … and then reframe their response using the structure above:

“Ah. So, you’re cropping the photo to increase the likelihood that your photo’s composition is visually appealing? Is that right?”

And then Bingo. You’ve got the makings of a paired question for your survey.

  • “How important is it to increase the likelihood that your composition is visually appealing?”
  • “How satisfied are you with the visual appeal of your compositions?”

If the responses come back as very important and very unsatisfied, now you’ve got a chance to brainstorm some interesting options with far more impact than, “Do we need a crop tool?”

Here’s a handy little PDF you can download that I like to have with me on these calls. It makes it a lot easier to keep a record of all the outcomes you’ll collect on your calls.

2. Surveys

You’re going to come out of your customer interview process with a ton of quotes, stories, and ideas; and equally important, you’ll have built up a list outcome statements that will make up your survey.

Build Your Survey

Typeform is far and away my favorite survey tool on the market. The UX for participants is unparalleled and their API for retrieving survey responses is stellar.

Create each pair of Importance/Satisfaction questions using the settings seen below:

  • Question type: Opinion Scale
  • Start scale at 1: true
  • Steps: 5
  • Show labels: true
  • Left label: Not important
  • Right label: Very important

Devs and Technical Founders: You can save a ton of time by using Typeform’s API instead of creating every single question by hand. Create one set of paired responses like you see above, then retrieve the form, use your favorite code editor to duplicate and edit the questions, then update the form with the new questions.

Ship that Puppy!

Have a couple friendlies fill out the survey after you’ve got all your questions loaded in. You want to be sure that the results are being saved and having some extra sets of eyes to proofread your work never hurts.

Once you’ve confirmed that it’s good to go, get it in front of your customers or prospects and start collecting results.

For my client’s project, we sent the survey to everyone we’d interviewed as well as several dozen additional customers to ensure we had a reliable set of results.

3. Analysis

After you’ve begun collecting responses to your survey, you’re ready to begin analyzing the data.

Regardless of the tool you use to do this piece of the work (Excel, web app, R), you determine the X and Y coordinates of each outcome statement using this calculation:

  • X-axis: % of respondents who rated this outcome a 4 or 5 in Importance * 10
  • Y-axis: % of respondents who rated this outcome  a 4 or 5 in Satisfaction * 10

For example:

In the image above, we’ve got seven imaginary responses to the question about making the compositions more visually appealing in our “Share beautiful pictures” app.

3 out of 7 people responded with a 4 or 5 regarding its importance, which is roughly 0.43. We multiply that by 10 to give us a single digit coordinate on the chart of 4.3.

Perform the same calculation for satisfaction and we arrive at 7.1.

This would mean that we’d plot this particular outcome statement right about here:

Repeat this calculation for all of your outcome statements and you’ll be much more equipped to start making some decisions around roadmap prioritization.

A Few More Thoughts on Creating the Chart

If you’re a technical founder or if you’re working with a development team, feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll share some more details about my implementation.

Typeform also allows you to export your survey data as a CSV, so if you’re an Excel wiz or have one on your team, this could be a great route for you to pursue.

The benefit of using the API vs exporting the CSV is that an application calling the API will always remain up-to-date, whereas, the spreadsheet will only be updated each time you download the CSVs.

I am not great with Excel, so there may be a better way to do this, but the formula I used to create the example table above is:


Obviously, replace “range” with the actual range of your results (i.e. A3:A8). But, that calculates the percentage of responses greater than three, divided by the total number of rows in the range, multiplied by 10.


As you can imagine, with all of the feedback we’d collected from the customer interviews combined with the analysis from the surveys, my client was able to make much more informed decisions about where to spend their time, money, and energy.

This was quite a lot to take in, I know. If you’ve got any questions at all, please reach out and I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.

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Jobs to Be Done Examples

If you’re trying to integrate Jobs to Be Done into your design process, you’ve probably found yourself looking for some concrete examples of Jobs to Be Done statements to be sure you’re on the right track.

In this post, I’ll share some examples of well-worded and poorly-worded JTBD statements so that you can put the theory into practice with confidence.

What is an Example of a Job to Be Done?

A Job to Be Done:

  1. Is solution-agnostic.
  2. Results in progress when completed.
  3. Is Relatively stable across time.

A Job to Be Done doesn’t know what products or solutions have existed, currently exist, or might exist. It’s just framing some area of life where your customer is at the center of a struggle, and they want some help solving the problem.

For example:

“Help me brush my teeth in the morning” is not a great example of a Job to Be Done statement.

“Help me brush my teeth in the morning” is joined at the hip to an existing solution (a toothbrush) and there’s only so far you’ll be able to expand your thinking within that bubble.

That’s a valid approach to designing sustaining innovations that impact customer satisfaction in the near-term. But it will not lead to disruptive new products and services.

Jobs to Be Done statements that are tied to existing solutions will not lead to disruptive new products and services.

A way to describe the Job to Be Done when a person is brushing their teeth that could lead to more innovative product design is:

“Keep my teeth healthy.”

This is a better example of a Job to Be Done statement because it’s detached from a solution and moves toward the person’s true motivation.

Now, this is not to say that the last profitable toothbrush company has been created.

But, set out to design a solution around “Keep my teeth healthy”, and now you’re looking at a problem that people faced hundreds of years ago, they face today, and they will face hundreds of years from now.

If you can find a way to help people keep their teeth healthy that’s more effective, less expensive, and takes less time than brushing their teeth … well, it’s safe to say you’re on to something with a larger upside than a better toothbrush.

More Jobs to Be Done Examples

Let’s look at a few more examples of Jobs to Be Done statements and decide if they are likely to lead to highly-innovative thinking.

Poorly-worded Job to Be DoneWell-worded Job to Be Done
Get my floor as clean as possible when I vacuum.Maintain a clean living space.
Edit my photos and provide a variety of professional filters I can easily use.Share beautiful pictures.
Help me maximize my deductions and get as much back from my taxes as possible.File my taxes with confidence.
Let me add tags, labels, and folders to my email program so that I can sort things according to my system. Find emails and files quickly.

1. “Get my floor as clean as possible when I vacuum.” vs. “Maintain a clean living space.”

The poorly-worded version is a legit desire and there’s definitely a market for meeting this desire. That’s why a lot of people own a Dyson. If you’re gonna vacuum, you want to see and hear that sucker doing work!

But, you’re not vacuuming as an end to itself. You want to have a clean living room.

Focusing on the vacuum and only the vacuum will lead to a very impressive vacuum cleaner.

Innovating on the Job to Be Done leads to a Roomba.

2. “Edit my photos and provide a variety of professional filters I can easily use.” vs. “Share beautiful pictures.”

Both Photoshop and Instagram satisfy the first statement. But if that sentence is where the team at Instagram stopped, if that’s the Job they thought they were solving, then what’s the product roadmap look like?

Filters, filters, and filters, right? It’s just filters all the way down.

But that’s not the Job people hire Instagram to do. People don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole. Likewise, people don’t want filters, they want to share beautiful pictures and filters are a feature that help them do the job.

Gueric touches on some similar thinking to this in his post, “3 Jobs-to-be-Done Examples to Help You Innovate with Confidence“.

3. “Help me maximize my deductions and get as much back from my taxes as possible.” vs. “File my taxes with confidence.”

Don’t make this mistake and start over-complicating your JTBD statements.

A Job statement is simple and defined at a level of detail that mirrors where your business is at in its product development.

Don’t be too wordy. Get to the core of the customer’s problem (5 Whys is very helpful here) and keep the statement simple.

4. “Let me add tags, labels, and folders to my email program so that I can sort things according to my system.” vs. “Find emails and files quickly.”

If you’ve started interviewing customers, potential customers, or if you’re scratching your own itch and you are the first customer, it can be all too easy to start jotting down feature requests and product requirements that meet the immediate need but miss the bigger picture.

Resist the urge to pull solutions and feature ideas into your list of Jobs to Be Done. When you see a solution wiggle its way in, keep digging. There’s a deeper need and when you uncover that you’ll get to the core JTBD.

Keep Leveling Up with this JTBD Podcast

If you’re interested in going deeper on Jobs, I recommend listening to this episode of the Product Popcorn podcast, where we discuss all the ins and outs of the JTBD framework.

I also recommend bookmarking the “Uncovering the Jobs to Be Done” presentation delivered by Moesta/Spiek at the Business of Software Conference for additional reference.

Follow the patterns in those examples above, and that’s when you’ll really start making progress toward defining your customers’ core Jobs to Be Done. When you can nail down their core Jobs, then you’re able to begin unlocking the power of JTBD.

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Start Over with Simplicity or Reduce Complexity?

I was having a conversation with a client recently and they’d more or less come to the conclusion that they needed to do a hard reset on the company and rebuild their application.

Not an easy decision to reach. Painful on multiple dimensions.

I’ve been in this very situation myself and a question I had to deal with then, and that they are dealing with now is: “What do we do with all this code?”

Even if this version of the idea has missed the mark, there’s some good code in there. It’s your fledgling business and even if it isn’t perfect, that’s valuable IP. What are you supposed to do just throw it out?

I think so.

There’s a default desire to wade through everything and save the good parts. To take a few objectively brilliant pillars and rebuild around them.

I told him that I think it’s a better idea to start over with simplicity rather than reduce complexity.

Take it all the way back down to the ground. Reimagine the simplest version that offers some value, and build that.

Those good parts will still be safe in Github if you end up needing them. Besides, as you reboot and set back out to find product-market fit, you won’t need what you thought, and you’ll invent something you haven’t yet imagined.

Save Time, Save Money, Make Money, Make Happy

My friend, Andy, wrote those eight words on a whiteboard almost two years ago and they’ve found their place in my head like a well-written poem ever since. Those are the four basic reasons someone will start using your thing.

Your product or service has to save time, save money, make money, or make happy. But, before letting yourself off the hook too soon, and telling yourself, “Oh sure, this will definitely save my customers some money. Once I launch they’ll come streaming in,” you need to know that saving some time, some money, or making some money, isn’t gonna cut it.

There’s a fairly predictable thing about us humans, and that’s that we’re really into our habits and we’re fearful of the unknown.

So, even if your new solution will save someone a measure of hours per week resulting in (by your sales page’s calculations!) a non-trivial figure over the course of a year, their first response will probably not be clicking “Sign Up!”. Their natural, DNA-deep, first response will probably be asking themselves if they can save those few hours themselves with something more known and familiar. Something they can do themselves.

To overcome habit, fear, and anxiety, you’re gonna have to save someone a lot of time, save them a lot of money, make them a lot of money, or make them very happy.

Incremental improvements can help you keep customers you’ve already got, but incremental improvements over their current solution will not convince them it’s worth the effort and risk to change.

A Big Ol’ Batch of Resources for Public Speaking

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that one of my goals over the next 12 months is to present more regularly on product strategy, development, and leadership.

Since then I’ve booked two spots and have submitted proposals to six more. Fingers crossed that at least one of those comes through! ?

What follows is the basic action plan I’ve followed (as outlined by Karen Cohen) along with links to the resources and tips I’ve found useful in each step of the plan.

My purpose here is twofold: first, it’s helpful for me to get this organized and all in one place, second, I hope to demystify the process and make the steps concrete enough that if you’re interested in public speaking but haven’t yet jumped in, perhaps you’ll read this post and take the leap!

Action Plan

1. Pick a Topic

This may come naturally. Maybe you’ve already got a “thing” you’re known for around the office or there’s an area of your field you’re already passionate about. If so, carry on.

If not, here are a few thoughts on discovering a topic where speaking at length could come most naturally.

  • If you’ve already got a blog, the lowest-hanging fruit is to consider turning one of your posts into a presentation.
  • Scan your “Sent” email over the past few months for a thread that was particularly controversial or that you were especially outspoken or passionate about. What was the topic and why was there so much energy around it?
  • What do your friends come to you for advice on?
  • What’s the most difficult problem you’ve solved in the last six months?
  • Did you make a leap into your current job from another industry? How did you do it and what lessons or principles are you applying to your current job? For example, I used to teach Middle School and I’m tinkering around with a “What Teaching Middle School Art Taught Me About Innovation” presentation. The title needs work, but directionally, the topic might have something interesting.


2. Pick a Format

For each topic you’re going to prepare, decide if you think it is best suited as a Talk (typical allotments are 20 min, 40 min, 60 min), Lightning Talk (5 min), or Workshop (half-day, full-day).

3. Prepare to Submit Your Talk

First tip. Either:

– Create a account, or
– Create a Google Doc and write your abstracts there

Don’t put any content in the Conference’s Proposal Form that you don’t have recorded somewhere else. I made this mistake on one of my submissions and ended up having to rewrite the abstract later. A rookie move that you should avoid.

Include in your Google Doc:

– Your bio
– Headshot of your gorgeous mug (some conference organizers want a link rather than an attached file, so have both ready for your own convenience)

For each talk you prepare, you’ll need a brief abstract and a more detailed description.

Which brings me to my second tip. Read through a few of these proposals to get a sense of how a good abstract and description are crafted.

It was in reading through just a few of these that I realized the “description” I had submitted for one of my talks was way underdeveloped. I knew what the outline of my talk would look like and the narrative I would use to thread it all together, but the organizers would have no way of knowing how fully-formed my thought process already is because I didn’t bother to show an outline as Nadia does so well in this proposal.

4. Finding Conferences and Events

Once my Papercall account started coming together, the overhead for submitting my talks came way down. Of course, I still tweak the abstract and description to be sure the content is relevant and tailored to each conference’s audience, but it’s better than starting each submission from scratch.

The hardest part is obviously finding events to approach. So let’s start small.

Lunch ‘n Learn at Your Workplace

Hey, you gotta start somewhere! If you’re ready to test out your talk but can’t find anywhere to present, pull a group of your colleagues together over lunch and show them how brilliant you are.

Meetups & Startup Week

I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a number of Meetup and Startup Week events and they’ve all been great experiences. In many cases, the organizers of Meetups are looking for new speakers with fresh content to keep things lively for their community. They want you to reach out!


This is a growth area for me that I’m focusing on very, very specifically.

I’ve got some links below that I’ve used to find conferences with open calls for papers, but the first thing I’d suggest you do is to create a Trello board to keep track of your workflow.

I was able to find the conferences you see on that board through a mish-mash of the following:

5. Create Your Presentation

It’s 2017. Nobody needs to be told that people love stories and hate PowerPoint bullet-list-read verbatim-off-the-slide talks.

I’ve found the following sites to be really helpful for inspiration, guidance, and practical resources (beautiful, royalty-free images).

6. Get Out There and Be a Bad Ass

Ideally, some more of those “Submitted” cards on my Trello board will move over to “Accepted” and yours will do the same as well!

As I’ve been writing this, I’m very aware that most of these resources are completely geared toward technical conferences. It’s been much harder for me to find resources that aggregate Product and UX conferences as efficiently as Technical conferences. I mean. It makes sense that developers are more likely to organize around a Github repo and pull requests for sharing CFPs, right? ?

If you’ve got anything to add or know of some resources that might be helpful, please let me know and I’ll be sure to add it.

Getting Started in Speaking at Technical Conferences: A Few Helpful Resources

One of my goals over the next 12 months is to speak on product, development, and leadership on a more regular basis.

(Some of you know this, but right out of college, I was a middle school art teacher before jumping back into tech. So, presenting and speaking feeds the teacher’s heart inside me. ? )

I’ve presented at Meetups, several Startup Weeks, facilitated a few workshops at accelerators and Galvanize, and every single time, I leave feeling energized and the feedback is mostly positive.

If this resonates with you and you have a goal to speak more regularly at tech conferences as well, here are a couple of links I’ve found extremely useful to start devising a plan. Hope it helps!

Karen Cohen: How to start speaking (in tech conferences): Great overview piece with a basic checklist on what to prepare, tips on picking a topic, and submitting a Call for Proposal.

Technically Speaking by Chiu-Ki and Cate: “Technically Speaking delivers call for proposals (CFPs), speaking tips, and inspirational videos straight to your inbox.” Very useful, I’ve submitted three proposals that I learned about by subscribing to this newsletter.

We Are All Awesome: Seven articles to give the inspiration and encouragement you may need to get over the inner voice telling you that you don’t have anything to say.

Kano Model (Part 2): Creating Your Survey

Creating a Kano Model Survey

This is part two of a three-part series exploring the Kano Model and how to go about uncovering where your users would place your product’s existing and considered features. Start here for a better understanding of where to begin with your Kano Model Survey.

Now that we understand what the Kano Model is attempting to explain – and assuming we agree – how do we go about determining which features are 😍delighters, 😐must-haves, etc.?

Obviously, the answer will come by “getting out of the building” and asking your customers and potential customers what they think.

Don’t ask, “Would you use ___ if we added it?”

In chapter 4 of her book, Lean Customer Development, Cindy Alvarez offers some good advice on focusing on actual current behavior from potential customers, versus aspirational future behavior. It’s pretty well established that asking people, “How likely would you be to use ___” will lead to a disproportionate number of false-positives and wasted development cycles building features people don’t adopt.

During qualitative, face-to-face interviews, we can ask questions framed as, “Tell me about the last time you ___.” to ensure we’re getting at actual behavior and aren’t leading the witness.

So, with a Kano-based survey, we mitigate against aspirational “Oh, sure I’d totally use that!” responses by asking both a positive and negative question about the same feature or requirement.

Instead, measure how they would feel if it existed and if it didn’t

“If you are able to sort your search results alphabetically, how do you feel?”

  • I like it!
  • I expect it.
  • I’m neutral.
  • I can live with it.
  • I dislike it.

and then:

“If you are not able to sort your search results alphabetically, how do you feel?”

  • I like it!
  • I expect it.
  • I’m neutral.
  • I can live with it.
  • I dislike it.

How do you interpret Kano Survey responses?

We then use both responses to identify the feature type according to that user like so:

So, in the case where a respondent answered “I expect it” to the positive question and “I dislike it” to the negative, we can see that for this particular user, that feature is a 😐Must-Have.

Quick aside. You’ll notice that four of those spaces have a new category: 😳. This indicates a Questionable response because the user shouldn’t really like it when a feature does not exist but also like it when it does exist. We won’t necessarily say they’re lying, but it certainly leads us to believe that maybe they weren’t paying close attention to the question.

How to Record Kano Survey Responses

We’ll record that response in our handy-dandy response tracker table – also known as a spreadsheet.

Then, we repeat that two-part question for each of our features with a batch of customers and let them tell us where each feature belongs.

In this hypothetical example, Feature A received:

Must-Haves: 13

One-Dimensionals: 2

Delighter: 1

Indifferent: 4

Reverse: 0

Questionable: 0

So, it’s a Must-Have! Build that thing!

How Many Kano Survey Responses Do I Need?

When it comes to qualitative interviews, it’s easier to go on feel and base it on something like, “When we’re no longer hearing new things that surprise us, we’ve probably got enough actionable info from this batch of interviews.”

But with this quantitative measure, we want to be sure we’re not drawing conclusions from too small a sample size. I haven’t come across a well-documented standard for a minimum number of responses, but several trustworthy practitioners have suggested that between 15-20 responses usually starts to reveal some truth.

And use your judgement, of course. In the example above, we can be pretty certain that Feature A is a Must-Have (13, 2, 1, 4), but Feature E isn’t as clear (8, 2, 6, 4). If you see that kind of “close call” pattern emerging, consider digging in on the use case of that feature in your next few customer interviews and perhaps you’ll have a better sense for where it may belong.

Get Started!

That’s enough to get you going in the right direction! If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out.

For now, identify your feature set, create a survey, gather responses, and be open to what the data tells you!

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Kano Model (Part 1): Understanding the Kano Model

What is the Kano Model?

Developed by Noriako Kano in the 1980’s, the Kano Model says that your customers will react in one of the following ways about each of your product’s features:

  • 😍 Delighters: “Nice! I didn’t expect that, and I love it!”
  • 😎 One-Dimensional: “I like that. I’ll have a little more please, and don’t take any away.”
  • 😐 Must-Haves: “Well yeah. Of course it has that, it’d be stupid not to.”
  • 😴  Indifferent: “Meh. Whatevs.”
  • 😡 Reverse: “WTF. This new crap complicates things and the old way was better. Can you take this out?”

You can determine which features belong in which categories by asking your customers about each one. And then, you’ll have a better sense of what to build, improve, or kill.

Taking the raw data from that questionnaire and charting it is a little more difficult than you might expect, but I’ll share some of my work that will hopefully make things faster for you to implement than it was for me.

But first.

The Kano Model

Don’t freak out and don’t get stuck trying to dissect it. It’s confusing at first, but help is coming!

It looks like this:


Or this:


If you’re smarter than I am, those images make sense at first glance.

But, if you’re like me, you’re thinking:

Let’s take it apart. And remember those five primary user reactions from a second ago:

  • 😍 Sweet!!
  • 😎 Cool, keep it up.
  • 😐 Well, yeah.
  • 😴  Meh.
  • 😡 Dafuq?!

We’ll start with the X-Axis, which indicates level of implementation.

Kano Model: Not implemented to Fully implemented

Way over to the left, the feature may not even be conceived of, let alone added to the product.

On the right, the feature is signed, sealed, and delivered.

The Y-Axis indicates how satisfied your customers are with the feature.

Kano Model: Dissatisfied to Satisfied

Up top, we’re happy. At the bottom, we’re pissed.

Pretty simple.

Delighters 😍

When Delighters aren’t implemented (far left), nobody is dissatisfied. Nobody cares that it doesn’t exist because it isn’t expected. But, once it gets to a certain degree of implementation, they’re blown away.

Delighters are pretty much what Disney does for a living.

If you fly in to Orlando and are staying at a Disney property, this is what happens:

  • You step off the plane.
  • You can skip going to baggage claim and instead head straight to ground transportation where a charming bus (they call it a motorcoach) is waiting to take you to your hotel.
  • Your bags? Disney collects them for you and delivers them to your room.

That’s the sort of thing that you don’t expect on your vacation, but when it happens, you make hyperbolic claims like, “This is the best thing ever. From now on, every vacation, we come here.”

One-Dimensional 😎

You’ll also see these referred to as “Performance attributes”, but I prefer one-dimensional. Add more, I like it. Take it away, I dislike it. Companies compete head-to-head on these attributes.


  • Megapixels
  • Miles per Gallon
  • Thread count
  • Monthly data allowance

Unlike Delighters and Must-Haves, these are attributes that are typically stated and are top-of-mind for your existing and potential customers.

Must-Haves 😐

You don’t get credit for implementing Must-Haves and you will take serious heat if you fail to provide them.

Like Delighters, these are attributes that your customers are unlikely to mention in a survey or focus group. In the case of Delighters, they wouldn’t mention them because it would never occur to them to ask for it, but in the case of Must-Haves, it’s because it’d be unthinkable that you wouldn’t provide it.

Nobody writes a hotel review that says, “This place was great! The bed had a comforter and the bathroom came with toilet paper! Definitely stay here!”

Follow the yellow line to the left towards Not Implemented and you can imagine what that hotel review would sound like if the hotel room didn’t have proper bedding or toilet paper.

Now follow the yellow line to the right and notice the diminishing returns. If the hotel room has zero rolls of toilet paper, it’s anarchy. One and maybe it’s fine, but two would be better. But you’re not earning any additional customer satisfaction by stocking the room with eight rolls compared to five. At a certain point, the customer’s basic needs have been met, and “over-implementing” doesn’t earn any points.

Indifferent 😴

These features don’t register in your customers’ minds. A great example I read somewhere would be a vending machine that accepts $1 coins. Doesn’t bother me that it’s there, but I also don’t care that it is.

This makes me think of my microwave.

Here is my microwave’s control panel.

Here are the buttons I press.

I would probably prefer that everything else wasn’t there for simplicity. But I’m not necessarily annoyed. As far as I’m concerned, Popcorn, Keep Warm, and the others fit right inside of that boring grey circle in the middle of the chart.

Reverse 😡

A Reverse feature is the opposite of a One-Dimensional feature. The more you add, the more angry your customers become, and the more of it you remove, the more they enjoy your product.

If my microwave had ten more buttons that I never used, then it’d start to be seriously cluttered and I’d be bothered enough to want them gone.

I recently bought a great new card game. It’s a ton of fun, and my wife and I can play it with our kids who are equally entertained. The only problem is that the cards aren’t like regular playing cards, they’re super slick and slide all over the place. They don’t shuffle well, it’s hard to keep them stacked, and they don’t “handle” the way playing cards typically do. This slickness feature of the cards reduces my enjoyment of the game, and I wish it wasn’t there. If the next version of the game has even slicker cards, I’d like it less, and if they went to regular old playing card finish, I’d consider buying that version because I would consider less of that feature to be an upgrade.

The Model. Again.


Hopefully, this makes more sense now.

And the two big arrows and thin red lines? You may have already guessed this, but as time passes:

  • Delighters become One-Dimensionals
  • One-Dimensionals become Must-Haves

Think back to the hotel room example. Every single thing we expect to see when we arrive was at one point in time utterly delightful, but is now a basic expectation.

So, whether this pattern is a good or bad thing for society in general is for someone else to tackle. I’m just pointing out that it’s a thing.

Anyway. Now that we’ve got a better understanding of what that chart means, how exactly do you go about discovering which category your features belong in?

Is this right up your alley?

I send a once-a-week newsletter that you’ll probably enjoy as well. I’ll never share your info with anyone for any reason and it’s easy to unsubscribe.

Devs, stop complaining about recruiters. You sound like an asshole.

Every so often, my Twitter stream – and probably yours – will include some annoyed (or perversely-entertained) developer sharing a tale of sorrow and woe. The tragedy? They’ve been spammed by a recruiter. Horror!


Are many technical recruiters clueless*?


Are you glad you have your job and not theirs?

Also yes?

Then try gratefulness as a response instead of complaining/showboating to Twitter.

Do you make over $60,000?

Yes? Then you’re in the top 0.19% richest people in the world.

No? Then respond to the recruiter!

Either way, be grateful that while millions upon millions of people are looking for work (and in many parts of the world, actual fucking water), you find yourself in the midst of a thriving industry at a point in time when your skills are valuable and demand outweighs supply.

That will not always be the case.

When the tide turns and you find yourself knocking on doors, brushing up your resume, and sending custom cover letters to position your background as remotely relevant in the brave new world, you’ll remember rolling your eyes at another email from yet another clueless recruiter and you may think, “What an asshole.”

* Note: I love @dhh. I read everything he writes, I watch every talk he posts, and I agree with almost all of it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would place him among my top 10 most influential authors. What I have never agreed with him on is how hard he is (very publicly) on recruiters.

Yes, it is comical that recruiters approach him for mid-level Rails positions considering that he, you know, invented it. But publicly mocking and embarrassing an actual human being who wasn’t good at their job (when nobody was actually harmed) is uncalled for.

More Time for Future You

I recently stumbled on a really great interview with Rory Vaden about self discipline and personal effectiveness. While Rory Vaden may sound like a Sith Lord, he is actually a NYT bestselling author and the guest on Episode #124 of the Art of Manliness podcast.

The entire episode is littered with brilliant one-liners that at first sound like bizspeak yawners, but are actually legit nuggets of advice.

For example:

The Amount of Our Endurance is Directly Proportionate to the Clarity of Our Vision


Success is Never Owned, Success is Rented and the Rent is Due Everyday

So sure, that’s exactly the sort of lameboat blah blah you’d expect to hear from a New York Times bestseller, or from Michael Scott who would then look at the camera in search of affirmation, shocked at himself for saying something insightful. But, it’s solid, applicable stuff if you can get past the Sales Conference Keynote vibe.

If you’re looking for a catalyst to get your 2016 in to focus, I’d recommend giving the podcast a listen.

Also, women, don’t be put off by the fact that it’s an “Art of Manliness” episode. Much of AoM is stuff dudes ought to know but probably don’t: “How to Pick a Cologne”, “How to Use a Straight Razor”, “How to Clean Your Gutters”. But this episode is not gender-specific at all, so dive in.

In case you don’t feel like listening to the whole thing, there is one section in particular that I want to share.

Five Permissions to Multiply Your Time

Vaden thinks we can create more time for our future selves by making better choices about how we spend our time today. To get a sense of what he’s talking about, we start with Covey.

Covey’s Time Management Grid

You may have seen this grid before. Popularized by Stephen Covey, the x-axis is Urgency (“How soon will something matter?”) and the y-axis is Importance (“How much does something matter?”).



Avoid doing the Urgent & Not Important crap in the bottom left. It presents itself as urgent, but is a waste of your time. Stop doing those things and don’t feel guilty about not doing them. This is your life, you only get one, and time is running out.

The Not Urgent & Not Important bottom right is healthy in moderation because everyone needs to veg from time to time. Too little of this quadrant and you’re kind of a chore to be around (“I don’t watch television. I prefer to settle in to a longform article about the ill-effects of globalization and some kale chips instead.”) Too much of this quadrant and you may find yourself unfulfilled when the time comes to reflect on how you’ve spent your life. Easy short-term choices, difficult long-term consequences.

The Urgent & Important upper left are the things that truly need to be done and need to be done soon. Vaden has some suggestions on how to identify and prioritize these tasks, and that is what the bulk of this post is about. We’ll get there in just a second.

The Not Urgent & Important upper right is full of things that our bodies and our (extremely persuasive) lizard brain don’t value because biologically we’re optimized for survival and instant gratification, not long-term success. On the one hand, that’s a drag, but on the other, we probably wouldn’t be here if it were otherwise. So, that being the case, we have to hack our wiring today to work towards a future we’ll enjoy.

It’s worth noting that the Avoid quadrant contains “somebody else’s problems and needs” and the Focus quadrant contains “relationship building”. I point this out because viewing “somebody else’s problems” as a waste of time sounds self-absorbed and generally asshole-ish. My interpretation of this nuance is that some relationships are healthy, and some are not. Investing in the problems and needs of someone with whom you have a healthy relationship is a good thing; investing in the problems and needs of someone with whom you have an unhealthy relationship probably isn’t. Your mileage may vary.

What Gets In?

Ok, all good. I get it, and I agree. But how do I know what’s important and what isn’t?

In my personal experience, I’ve found that in a given day, week, or month where I was less effective than I could have been, it’s because a bunch of Urgent & Not Important nonsense made its way in to my Urgent & Important day-to-day grind.

This is a bit anecdotal, but you know that “Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” book that’s taking the world by storm right now? I think it’s the tangible, objects-in-our-home reflection of what we do with our time. “There’s all this crap taking up space, and it’s keeping me from appreciating the things that bring me actual joy. What do I do?”

Trash it. Kill it with fire. And when possible, don’t let it in to begin with.

I think the “gate” between the Urgent & Important and the Urgent & Not Important quadrants is the most prone to failure, and so we should take extra steps to make it as airtight as possible.


The Focus Funnel

In the podcast and in his book, Vaden introduces the (bizspeak alliteration alert!) Focus Funnel. I suppose the publishers thought the “Will This Lead to a Fulfilling Recollection of My Life?” Funnel just didn’t have the same ring. The Focus Funnel is the obstacle course that every incoming task competing for your time should have to go through.

The obstacles and their associated permissions are:

Eliminate: Permission to Ignore

Automate: Permission to Invest

Delegate: Permission of Imperfect

If you can’t eliminate, automate, or delegate the task, it falls out of the bottom of the funnel and there is one question to ask yourself, “Can this wait?”

If yes:

Procrastinate: Permission to Procrastinate on Purpose

If no:

Concentrate: Permission to Protect

Let’s take a closer look at each of these five steps.

Eliminate – Permission to Ignore

The first thing to ask is, “Does this matter?”

If it doesn’t, don’t do it, and give yourself the emotional permission to ignore it.

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which shouldn’t be done at all.”
– Peter Drucker

I think doing inefficiently that which shouldn’t be done would be even more useless, but I take his meaning.

The host and Vaden banter a bit about how a lot of people (including themselves) have trouble saying, “No.” If you’re a people-pleaser, or a kind, reliable person in general, you’re probably thinking this about yourself at this very moment.

But as he points out, when you say Yes to one thing, you are simultaneously saying No to something else.

This is a big deal.

If you say Yes to something unimportant, you might be accidentally saying No to something that matters.

There’s a great talk by a guy I really admire, Des Traynor. It’s called, “Product Strategy Is About Saying No”. The gist is that in considering any new feature request, any bug fix, any fresh idea, the product manager should default to no, and the request should have to make a really good case for itself to get on the roadmap.

Default to no, and the truly worthwhile things will be obvious over time. You’ll also be surprised to realize how many things weren’t worth doing in the first place.

Automate – Permission to Invest

Create a process today that will save you time tomorrow.

“Automation is to time what compound interest is to money.”
– Rory Vaden

What are some things that can be automated?

Bills, common email responses, packing list, wardrobe, etc. Anything that can eliminate “Think Time”.

Do you find yourself writing the same email over and over? Look in to using a Text Expander.

Find yourself making a new packing list every time you go on a trip? Create a packing template in Trello that you can use and reuse next time.

Trello Packing Template

Not sure what to wear today? Always wear the same thing.

So, if you have a task come your way that can’t be eliminated, ask yourself if it can be automated. And if it can, give yourself the emotional permission to invest today in order to create more time for yourself in the future.

Delegate – Permission of Imperfect

The old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself” is not only wrong, but is also insanely limiting.

Is it sometimes applicable? Sure. But are they words to live by? Not remotely.

In the workplace, if you’re in a position to delegate tasks to your team, then you already know there’s a stack of books to the moon and back about the importance of nurturing personal growth rather than micromanaging to your specification. It’s ok if the result isn’t perfect (yours wouldn’t have been either), and it’s ok (and probably better) if the method is one you wouldn’t have chosen.

And of course, there are ways to delegate at home, too.

If a couple dozen people are going to be walking through the door in a half hour, I have no idea how the four pans on the stove, the whatever in the oven, the drinks on the island, and the kids’ activities downstairs are going to come together.

Laura does.

So the last thing she should be doing is slicing tomatos. We’ve learned this over the years, and as a result, I’m pretty good at slicing veggies.

If you’ve got kids, give yourself permission to accept imperfect and delegate like crazy. They’ll get better over time (our five year-old prides herself on being the best bathroom cleaner among her siblings) and you are litcherally adding minutes to your day. To add some structure to chore delegation with the kiddos, we’ve recently begun using ChoreMonster with great success.

Other resources for delegating tasks that can’t be eliminated or automated:

Procrastinate – Permission to Procrastinate on Purpose

In the unfortunate circumstance that you can’t eliminate, automate, or delegate the thing, you get to decide if it can wait.

If it can, you give yourself permission to procrastinate on purpose.

Don’t panic, you aren’t putting it off for forever, you’re just sending it back to the top of the funnel to wait around for a while.

Eventually, one of the conditions it just fell through will apply. You’ll be able to eliminate, automate, or delegate it; or the question of “Can this wait?” will be “No.”

When you decide that a task can wait, and then it gets eliminated on a future trip through the funnel, you have scored a major victory. Going back to Covey’s grid, you’ve protected some space in the Urgent & Important quadrant and avoided the psychological stress that comes from over-crowding.

Concentrate – Permission to Protect

When it can’t wait, you do the thing. Concentrate, give yourself permission to protect your focus, and do it.


Not much to say about that.

Actually, there’s quite a lot to say about doing things efficiently. But that’s another post for another day.

Any Advice for Me?

I hope it goes without saying that I’m not writing this from the position of an expert or someone who perceives themself as an expert. I’m not much better at applying these things than the average person. But, I am better at applying them to my own life than I was five years ago, and I hope to be better in five years than I am today.

So, do you have any thoughts or advice about self discipline and effectiveness that you’ve seen work in your own experience? Leave a comment below or let’s schedule a 15-minute Hangout. I’d love to hear from you.