The power of product integrity

Harv Bus Rev. 1990 Nov-Dec;68(6):107-18.


In the dictionary, integrity means wholeness, completeness, soundness. In products, integrity is the source of sustainable competitive advantage. Products with integrity perform superbly, provide good value, and satisfy customers' expectations in every respect, including such intangibles as their look and feel. Consider this example from the auto industry. In 1987, Mazda put a racy four-wheel steering system in a five-door family hatchback. Honda introduced a comparable system in the Prelude, a sporty, two-door coupe. Most of Honda's customers installed the new technology; Mazda's system sold poorly. Potential customers felt the fit--or misfit--between the car and the new component, and they responded accordingly. Companies that consistently develop products with integrity are coherent, integrated organizations. This internal integrity is visible at the level of strategy and structure, in management and organization, and in the skills, attitudes, and behavior of individual designers, engineers, and operators. Moreover, these companies are integrated externally: customers become part of the development organization. Integrity starts with a product concept that describes the new product from the potential customer's perspective--"pocket rocket" for a sporty, subcompact car, for example. Whether the final product has integrity will depend on two things: how well the concept satisfies potential customers' wants and needs and how completely the concept has been embodied in the product's details. In the most successful development organizations, "heavyweight" product managers are responsible for leading both tasks, as well as for guiding the creation of a strong product concept.

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Industry / organization & administration*
  • Organizational Objectives
  • Planning Techniques
  • Product Line Management / organization & administration*
  • United States