12/19/11 - What is the Job We are Being Hired to Do?

The question on my whiteboard is, "What is the job we are being hired to do?"  I look at this daily, and mention it often to the folks I work with in order to make sure we are asking the right questions each time we interact with our customers, which are both professional healthcare project managers and the hospitals who need them.

I'm certainly not the originator of this idea.  I have borrowed heavily from Clayton Christensen's seminal piece on marketing, "Marketing Malpractice," and I've had that reinforced by a mentor I have the luxury of meeting with regularly who steers me forward.  Ask yourself what you're being hired to do, he said.  Then keep asking it every day.  When I finally realized he was way ahead of me, I got my wife to bake him a pound cake.  I may be a slow learner but I've got good manners.

Christensen's brilliant point is stated with simple elegance:  when people need to get a job done, they hire a product or service to do it for them.  As he writes, that job could be providing a milkshake, which is comforting and makes a commute to work tolerable.  Because, as he paraphrases from another Harvard instructor, people don't want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.

"What is the job we are being hired to do?" gets me to the quarter inch hole someone needs.  It helps me remember each day to try to ask good questions and then simply listen carefully.  I have "Listen!" written on a post it note and stuck to the stapler on my desk as a result.

In high school I worked at an independent grocery store named "Thriftown" in Clarkston, Georgia.  I was a bag boy, and I had to wear a long sleeve shirt with a tie every day, and we had to take the groceries out to peoples' cars.  As a significant side benefit, we were allowed to accept tips, which helped fund all of my activities in high school.

That tie you're wearing shows you're serious about your job, Mr. Merlin the owner told me once.  People can buy groceries anywhere, but they buy them here because we care about them.  As a teenager I thought that was a lot of weight to stick on a simple tie, but looking back from a great distance, I think Mr. Merlin knew what he was talking about.

I may get around to erasing this if a big need arises, but for the foreseeable future I think I'll leave my whiteboard a little crowded.  What is the job we are being hired to do? strikes me as an open-ended question I need to keep on asking.

Posted by Jack Williams at 08:17


Mike S said...
Well said.
December 19, 2011 18:12
Dave P said...
Interesting article I think I'll share with my 5000 followers on linked in! Where's that share icon.
January 8, 2012 09:01

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