The title "The Statue in the Stone" represents a metaphor for Law #2 of JTBD Philosophy: To make something perfect, you must remove everything that makes it imperfect.
The following excerpt from the book explains the metaphor with a story:
Let’s look at an example. A customer experience to a popular destination. Consider the job “Travel to Disney World with young children.” What could keep that trip from being perfect? Let’s create a list:
High (oh so high) expense
Long lines and waiting time for rides
Uncomfortable weather – too hot – too cold – too rainy
Sore feet at the end of the day
Difficulty finding place to change diapers
Worry over losing personal items on a ride
These things we worry about… or cause us pain… are the imperfections. These are the errors. The things that went wrong; the things that might have gone wrong, the things that we worry about going wrong.
If we are to experience the perfect trip, all these errors must be removed.
Likely, our technical folks won’t care for this idea. After all, nothing is ever perfect. Nothing can be in our world of crude matter. Stones and flesh and whatnot. And even if we could approach perfection, if we could get very, very close to it, we’d surely create a product that would be quite expensive.
But in reality, we really just need JTBD philosophy to help us to be more perfect than our competition. That is, better than our competition. Better than our customers’ other options. So, nobody is talking about actually delivering perfection. It’s a mindset. It’s obsessing over errors to make progress towards an asymptotic limit. And we get better by removing imperfections. After all, hypothetically, if it were possible, removing all that is imperfect – perfection is all that would be left. Law #2 is “To make something perfect, you must remove everything that makes it imperfect.”
Let me tell you a story. A story that contains the heart of JTBD philosophy in a metaphorical way.
The Statue in the Stone
The master said to himself, “This day…. It will be like no other.” Up until now, there had been so many hours. Early days. Long nights. Tinkering. Hammering. Chiseling. Inspecting. And dreaming. And now at last, we have it. A glorious moment. Here at last. It warmed his bones like the mid-morning sun. Excitement? Yes. But there was more than that. Melancholy and sadness too. The bitter and the sweet. David had been his constant companion for so long. And now… from this day forward… David belonged to the world.
Oddly enough, David was not so emotional. In fact, his face looked exactly the same as every other day. The same lines. The same shadows. He was confident. Bold. Strong. Standing tall in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. Stern eyes. But still a paradox. Relaxed while coiled for attack. Make no mistake, David was dangerous. And in fact, he was all of this and more. Our master, of course, was Michelangelo. His masterpiece, the statue of David; unveiled to the world.
A father remembers how his adult children used to be toddlers. Muddy hands, scraped knees, and dirty faces. Likewise, Michelangelo could still remember how David looked in the beginning. A big marble rock. Abstract and natural. Harsh lines from the hacking of sophomore sculptors. See, others had already begun on the statue before the task came to Michelangelo. And for a time, David had been abandoned. Resting until his time would come. Until the proper artist would free him from the stone.
David, as it turns out, was part of a larger vision for Florence itself. There was to be a series of statues. Biblical heroes along the roof of the Florence Cathedral. But with the passage of time, it seemed that this stone was destined to remain a stone. In 1501, the fates finally intervened. Leonardo da Vinci himself stepped forward to place the commission in the calloused hand of young Michelangelo. When Michelangelo first saw the rock, David was heavy. Overburdened. When the master touched that stone, he sensed something beautiful and terrible trapped inside the Tuscan marble. Peaceful and violent. Proud and humble. A boy and a king.
With violence and delicate attention, Michelangelo began the liberation. Three years later, the last rough surface was polished smooth. The final dust of marble mist settled on the floor. But now, there was another problem. At 17 feet tall, David was too heavy to be moved to the Florence Cathedral’s roof. After some debate, it was decided that David’s new home would be in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
Finally, the day came for the unveiling in Florence. There he was. A statue in the sun. And it was perfect. It was perfection. Michelangelo squinted in the sunlight. It was one thing to imagine David on this podium. It was another to see him become a part of the city itself. A silhouette in white light, ready for battle. Of course, we know the story. Goliath laughed. Great warriors don’t fear boys with slings and stones. But history is unkind to the proud. And soon enough, his sword would be unkind to his own neck.
On this day, the master didn’t really want to leave David among the crowds of people and pigeons. Surrounded by cold, gray buildings. But the strange thing was, that years of a reclusive life didn’t seem to bother David at all. Among the prying eyes of the wealthy and the poor, of rival sculptors and passing visitors, David was steady. He was here to fight a giant. Michelangelo imagined, as he had many times, how the sling would uncoil, and the rocks would fly. But on this day, his vision was interrupted when a murder of crows scattered off a rooftop.
The glances of a few courtyard onlookers turned from the statue to a loud rumble down the street. What was going on? In the distance there were cheers... and then silence. A child’s murmur, then a woman’s lovely call. Odd sounds piercing the rumble of a thousand voices. The cacophony echoed off cobblestone streets and buildings.
Someone was coming. Someone important… was coming.
Michelangelo felt his breathing quicken. His forehead, suddenly warm. His eyes, burning from the sun’s glare off the street. He thought to himself, “if David isn’t nervous, why should I be”? After all, the people will have a new decoration for Florence. That’s what they’ll see. But despite that, he knew that at the center of the approaching crowd was an important man. Not just anybody. And this man was coming to see the statue. Over the previous months and years, I imagine that Michelangelo may have reflected upon the Biblical story like this:
We were all children once, full of innocence and promise. And we are all destined eventually to disappoint those we love. David is both - what’s perfect and what’s imperfect within us. We all have giants and we all know fear. David was not brave because he was strong, but brave because he was weak. A boy, a stone and a sling against a warrior. There was no story that was more human and yet godlier than David versus Goliath.
The master turned. A trance broken by crowds and the object of their affections. It was the pope. Pope Julius. Voices softened into whispers. Strangely, David was unfazed. Commanding attention as a king would. Michelangelo stretched his fingers and let out a slow breath. David would either be admired, or not. Loved, or not. Regardless, he had done his best and placed it upon doorstep of the Renaissance.
Pope Julius approached. There were no sounds except for the whistles of pigeons settling on the rooftops.
Pope Julius was a man of God, not a man of art. But did he appreciate beautiful things? At least as a historian? Was this art? Was it a decoration? A monument to the faith? But wait, would he see it as a war statement, no wait, Pope Julius was not opposed to war. Or was he? A monument of military might? Wait, this might be an insult to Rome. After all, David’s eyes were looking east.
Julius looked up as Michelangelo looked down. The pope took a few careful steps. He reached for the feathery tips of his beard. David towered over them both. Julius reached up, up. He touched the toes of the man atop the pedestal. He paced in a circle, inspecting the work. Slow steps. He stumbled on a paver, nearly tripping. Eyes on the statue. The pope, rubbing his hands together, approached the sculptor.
“You are Michelangelo. You did this.”
Michelangelo opened his mouth, but no sounds were forming. Julius touched his shoulder and said, “I do not understand. This is not a statue. This is a man, a hero, a king! And you are so young. How did this happen? How did you create something so… perfect?”
The master looked up at his creation, as did Julius. Two crows approached the statue to land, but then scattered in opposite directions. Squawking as they escaped. Where a pope and a sculptor stood before, now there were just two men. Or was it three. David looked as if he had been there for centuries.
Michelangelo replied, “I saw David in the stone, and I just chiseled away everything that was not David.”
This is the essence of JTBD Philosophy
David was made perfect by chiseling away the excess rock. Made to be perfect by removing all that should not be there. It was a purifying process. Meditate upon this: perfection is about taking away, not adding.
Law #1: A customer hires a product to accomplish a job.
Law #2: To make something perfect, you must remove everything that makes it imperfect.
From these two, we arrive at the true essence within Law #3: The goal of JTBD philosophy is to help a customer to accomplish a job perfectly.