Don't homogenize, synchronize.

M. Sawhney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


To be more responsive to customers, companies often break down organizational walls between their units--setting up all manner of cross-business and cross-functional task forces and working groups and promoting a "one-company" culture. But such attempts can backfire terribly by distracting business and functional units and by contaminating their strategies and processes. Fortunately, there's a better way, says the author. Rather than tear down organizational walls, a company can make them permeable to information. It can synchronize all its data on products, filtering the information through linked databases and applications and delivering it in a coordinated, meaningful form to customers. As a result, the organization can present a single, unified face to the customer--one that can change as market conditions warrant--without imposing homogeneity on its people. Such synchronization can lead not just to stronger customer relationships and more sales but also to greater operational efficiency. It allows a company, for example, to avoid the high costs of maintaining many different information systems with redundant data. The decoupling of product control from customer control in a synchronized company reflects a fundamental fact about business: While companies have to focus on creating great products, customers think in terms of the activities they perform and the benefits they seek. For companies, products are ends, but for customers, products are means. The disconnect between how customers think and how companies organize themselves is what leads to inefficiencies and missed opportunities, and that's exactly the problem that synchronization solves. Synchronized companies can get closer to customers, sustain product innovation, and improve operational efficiency--goals that have traditionally been very difficult to achieve simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-108, 145
JournalHarvard Business Review
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Strategy and Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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