Using the Jobs to be Done push & pull (forces) diagram to understand your product’s potential

Evelien Al
October 20, 2018

If there’s one concept from Jobs to be Done theory that has helped me understand customer behaviour better, it must be the Progress Forces Diagram. And every time I explain it during a workshop or during coaching it makes sense to others as well. That’s why I’m writing this small post to explain it to you, and how it can help you find out whether your product has potential.

But before we get into more detail, let’s first take a look at how visualises the diagram in this post:


As you can see there are two sides of the progress forces diagram:

  • The left side, where people go from inaction to actively looking for a new solution.
  • The right side, where people go from looking for a new solution to actually adopting a specific one.

Let me explain a bit more about those:

What makes people go out and look for a new solution

As you can see there are two factors on the left side:

  • Push of the situation: this is what moves people to go out and look actively for a new solution.
  • Counteracting that you have the habit of the present: it’s simply too easy to stay with a solution you already know and not change anything.

The push of the situation, i.e. how much it keeps someone from reaching their goals (how impeding it is) must be big enough to move someone to action and start investing time to actively start looking for a new solution.

Just think about it: how many products are you using that you get annoyed with from time to time, but you can’t be bothered to start looking for a better alternative? Exactly. Looking for something new costs energy, so we usually postpone it until we really have to (i.e. the downsides of the current solution are big enough).

What this means for your product

That unless someone is actively looking for a new solution, it will be pretty hard to reach them. You might be able to convince people solely with the “awesomeness” of your solution, but it’s definitely not the easiest way to go.

So go for the people who are already actively looking for a new solution. The ones who, as to say so, “take the solution out of your hands”. And go for solving the problems that are brought up naturally during interviews (are on the forefront of your interviewee’s minds), not the ones you have to bring up yourself.

Also realise: if you’re advertising with the problem you can solve, but you’re not having much success gaining interest, it’s a good sign that people are not experiencing enough pushes to actively go look for another solution. Consider changing your plans in this case.

What makes people choose YOUR solution

On the right side we have two other factors:

  • Magnetism, or “pull” of the new solution: this is what convinces people to adopt a particular solution.
  • Counteracting that you have the anxiety of the new solution: “Will this solution be worth the money and time I’ll have to invest in it? And what if it goes wrong?”. Note: this is an especially strong force in B2B, as explained in this post of mine.

In order for someone to adopt a new solution they must be convinced that the benefits are worth the investment required and (possible) downsides.

To illustrate this with an example from my own work: While onboarding new users onto Dispatch, a Firmhouse tool for tracking assumptions and experiments, we discovered that many of them were reluctant to start using it because they wondered whether it was flexible enough to suit their needs. They were afraid of investing lots of time and energy into getting to know the product, and then running into walls later on, forcing them to switch to another solution after all.

What this means for your product

To increase the chances of people adopting your solution:

  1. Minimise the (time) investment people will have to make to fit your solution into their already existing habits, by fitting it into your user’s lives as best as possible. Doing good customer discovery is key to this, including not just interviewing but also observing. Proper onboarding is crucial as well, so they can get up & running as soon as possible.
  2. Make the benefits of your product very clear up-front to (potential) customers. You can do this via good marketing: market with the goal your product can help your customers achieve (the Job to be Done), not just how it works. Good onboarding and help docs that quickly explain them what they can do with the product are also of great help here.
  3. Show empathy for your users, by showing that you understand your user’s concerns and are ready to help out. Good customer care and showing you’re there to help out if needed is a good way to do so.

This post goes more in-depth on these points.

My main take-aways

If there are a few things I’d like you to take away from this it’s:

  • If people are not experiencing enough pushes to actively go look for a new solution, they’ll be unlikely to consider yours. If that’s the case, consider pivoting to a new solution or customer segment.
  • If there’s a big anxiety of the new, match your product with your user’s already existing habits, make the benefits of using your solution clear up front, and show empathy and the willingness to help out your users with any issues they have. Proper onboarding and good customer support are crucial here.

What about pains and gains?

There’s some connection to the pains and gains in the Value Proposition Model canvas. As you might have guessed, pains can be related to pushes, as they’re “painful” enough to push someone out to go look for a new solution. Gains can be equated to pulls, as they are the positive things about a product that convince someone to start using it.

But what I like about the pushes & pulls concept is that it doesn’t describe something as positive or negative, but the effect it has on someone’s behaviour: does it make someone go out and look for something else? Or does it convince someone to adopt a particular solution?

Also, the Progress Forces diagram helps in deciding what to focus on when: if people are clearly experiencing enough pushes, but they are anxious to adopt a new solution, focus on good onboarding & customer support. On the other hand, if your research seems to indicate a lack of pushes all-together, you might want to change your plans.