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Moral QFD: Incorporating moral considerations in product
Vincent Wiegel, Luuk Simons
Faculty of Policy, Technology and Management, Delft University of Technology
Keywords: QFD, Moral deployment, Privacy, Trust, Moral and cultural values
Our lives are formed by the deep, moral values we hold dear. In the design of products we give
expression to these deeper, often moral values. And, we make sure that the products we buy do not
offend our moral values. This is mostly done unconsciously/implicitly. We argue that giving explicit
attention to the values we hold dear will increase the quality and acceptance of the products we design.
Functional and technical requirements paint a necessary but incomplete picture. This is even more
pressing in the cases were we delegate decision-making to software agents and machines.
In this paper, we demonstrate how QFD can be extended and used to express deep, moral values and
translate them into product features/quality functions. We enlarge the esteem function as proposed and
promoted by Miles and Mazur amongst others. We draw an analogy to expression of aesthetic values
as developed by Mazur. In order to capture moral values we need to understand their nature, and
understand in which respects they are similar to and are differ from aesthetic values. We claim that if
our values are properly represented in newly designed products chances of acceptance of these
products are increased.
1. Introduction: the need for moral QFD
The goal of requirements engineering is to translate stakeholder requirements expressed in natural
language into formal specifications to serve as a basis for design and implementation. Over the past
years, several limitations of main stream requirements engineering have been mentioned. Herzwurm,
Schockert, Dowie and Breidung (2002) observe that most methods tend to focus on the more technical
aspects of information systems. The models are created for specialists, and general users can only
understand parts of them. Lui & Yu (2004) and Yu & Mylopoulus (1998) state that most requirements
engineering methods are focused on functional design. They emphasize the importance of including
Wiegel, V. and L. P. A. Simons (2008). Moral QFD; Incorporating moral considerations in product
development. 14th International Symposium on Quality Function Deployment, Beijing, Sep 25-26, pp.1-14.
stakeholder goals in early requirements engineering. Van Vliet & Brinkkemper (2002) conclude after a
review of various approaches, that functional design is appropriate for technical (sub)domains of
design, but when systems are designed to support people in their tasks, a functional focus is
In the design of products, be they IT systems, cars, pens, etc. the designer must turn the requirements
into a formalized design paper that allows the engineers to actually produce the product. This
production process involves a multitude of machines, programmes, etc. that all need instructions for
their operation. Though this will be obvious to everyone the implication is that properties that people
value but that are ‘fuzzy’ or difficult to formalize will not be considered, or reduced to more tangible
but thinner properties.
One might want a business-like suit or an elegant dress. But what exactly account for the business-
likeness or the elegance of garments is not easily expressed. Mazur (2005) introduces life-style QFD
to address these attributes. This approach brings aesthetics within the realm of QFD. In addition to
aesthetical values we also hold moral and cultural values. These values also determine in part what we
look for in products, besides the technical, functional and aesthetic qualities. We have ‘fair’ coffee; we
want an electronic medical record system that is trustworthy; playgrounds and community buildings
that foster the social fabric, etc.
Aesthetic on the one hand, and moral, cultural values on the other have much in common. They are
deeply rooted in our value and belief system, they define and express to an important extent who we
are and what we value, they are elusive concepts that often defy detailed definition. There is also an
important difference between the two. For aesthetic values discussion is possible. One person might
find a particular product more elegant or attractive than another product. And she might also convince
some else that indeed it is more elegant. That other person, can however, without the slightest
inconsistency maintain the opposite. Worst case he would be considered to have bad taste. With moral
values this is not the case. They define at an even deeper level who and what we are. And particular
values are held to be immoral. In adopting these values one might place himself outside the
community. This difference is illustrated when particular commercials are banned (or argued to be
banned) because of the bad taste they display. What happens is in fact not an argument for poor
aesthetic expression but one against a commercial expression that offends the moral, cultural values
some people hold
. It also has a different effect on public response. An ugly product will simply not be
bought. A morally offensive product will possibly be actively banned, and damages the reputation of
the producer. A last observation that is important in this context concerns the production process.
Though the nature of the production process does not affect the qualities of the product, it can affect
the moral evaluation of the product. The physical qualities of a product might be the same irrespective
An illustration is massive billboards displaying scantly dressed women advertising underwear. Though
probably aesthetically artful they offend the values some people hold about women, nudity, etc.
of it being produced in an environmentally friendly or unfriendly way. Nonetheless it can affect the
evaluation of the product and the regard in which the user of the product is held. Thus, introducing
moral and cultural values potentially broadens the scope of the QFD analysis.
2. Esteem and moral values
In this section we propose an addition to the traditional QFD definition of Customer Needs with the
moral dimension. What does it mean to live a moral life (Van den Hoven), and how does that impact
We follow Mazur (2005) in defining Customer needs as:
• Solve a customer problem
• Enable a customer to grasp an opportunity
• Customer looks good to someone whose opinion he/she values
• Customer feels good about him/herself
The first two are referred to as use function, the last two as esteem functions. Esteem is a reference to
the regard in which one is held. The question is now ‘held in regard in respect to what?’ One can be
regarded and respected as a sharp but fair businessman, as a style icon or fashionable person.
Esteemed as moral person, that is as one who lives a full moral life means that one possesses particular
virtues, acts towards morally valuable ends and/or adheres to moral standards when acting. In
normative ethics, the branch of ethics that deals with what to consider morally good, there are roughly
speaking three main strands: deontological, teleological and virtue ethics. The first takes the nature of
the action as its focus of moral evaluation, the second the outcome of an action, and the third the
virtues an actor possesses. For our current purposes this distinction does not matter. Key is the extent
in which having, using a product contributes to the moral regard in which one is held, and more
importantly in which one holds oneself. The esteem in which one holds oneself is arguably more
important in the case of moral values than in the case of aesthetic values. The latter has an important
social aspect through the impression it leaves on others, while the former is social through the impact
it has on others, irrespective of whether they notice. Buying fair-trade coffee is not likely to get
noticed by the coffee drinkers, nor is there a morally relevant direct relationship between buyer and
producer of the coffee that makes the act open to esteem.
Now let us illustrate the importance of moral values in relation to the product we design. Daily new
services are introduced based on internet technology. A particularly interesting service is the keeping
of one’s medical data record on the internet. The benefit of doing so is that is able to access these data
virtually irrespective of where one is. This can be useful when one is abroad and in need of medical
attention. This service offers several use functions addressing the functional and technical
requirements. Service will have to be up and running for example 99,98% of the time, data must be
easily queried, updated, etc. In addition, one will want to trust the service provider to protect one’s
privacy. For example, not to sell the medical information to pharmaceutical companies that send
emails to advertise their medicines. Nor to make the information publicly accessible through neglect,
shaky security, etc. Now both trust and privacy are morally and culturally determined notions. They
are we are called thick or rich moral concepts, which means that there is a lot of rather specific
meaning attached to them. For these notions there are not simple lists of functional requirements that
together comprise these notions.
3. Extending QFD: taking a lead from Kansei engineering and Lifestyle QFD
In this section we adopt and adapt the traditional QFD Deployment process as proposed by Akao
(1990). It needs to be changed and extended in some respects to facilitate the capture of deep, moral
values. We present a Citizen Value table in which the verbatims are captured in a structured way. We
use the term Citizen to indicate that the person that will be using the product is not just a consumer, a
patient, a user, etc. but all of these. We take our lead from the Kansei engineering (Nagamichi 1990),
QFD for service industry (Ohfuji 1990) and the Lifestyle QFD (Mazur 2005). In order to determine
the ‘best design’ some steps are required in addition to the multi-variate analysis. Moral and cultural
values have different sources: primarily the users, but also the company that produces the product and
the people involved in the design and production. With moral values ‘not everything goes’, nor is it
simply a counting of the voices. Values are also subject to stricter requirements of consistency. In
addition, we argue that a change in scope is required to include not only the product but also the
production process. The manner of production itself has an impact on the moral evaluation of the
product even though it can not be said to be a part of the product.
Taking the discussion by Mazur (2005) as our starting point we can list the following process steps for
1. Determine goals
2. Define customer segments
3. Visit the Gemba, understand the customer
4. Draw the customer value table
5. Draw the affinity diagram
6. Construct the hierarchy diagram
7. Establish priorities
8. Construct the maximum value table
9. Execute customer and technical competitive analysis
10. Construct (rooms 1 to 3 of) the QFD house of quality
11. Deploy findings in product design and construction
We will focus on steps 3 through 7. The other steps are not affected and can be executed in the usual
ways. In our discussion below we will describe for each step its general content, the adaptations, if
any, from the Lifestyle deployment process, and an illustration.
Step 3: Gemba visit to understand the customer, is the first step that must be adapted. The purpose of
this step remains to fully understand the customer. As this involves a wider range of cultural and moral
values the perspective is that of the citizen-annex-customer and not just the customer. The customer
valuation is informed by her wider social and cultural context. This step must also include the
company’s culture and moral values. Many companies have a wider understanding of their mission
than just making money. The values expressed in the mission statement must be incorporated in the
analysis. The same applies to the company’s employees. Though it can be assumed that if an
employee’s values are at odds with those of the company continued employment is unlikely. An
important reason to include the company’s values is that if the company would produce goods that
clearly are at odds with the company’s values it will lose credibility, itself an important value, and
pollute its brand.
Finally, this step must include an overview of shared values and taboos that govern the lives of the
customer group(s) one is interested in. These can include supra-national, national and local customs,
mores, taboos, etc. All these express the values that the citizen-annex-customers share, that restrict
their behaviour and inform their decisions. Many of these values will be stable over time and some re-
use is possible.
Interviews of citizen-annex-customers might include questions like the following.
Table 1 Value Interview
What are the social, moral issues that you care about strongly?
How do you feel about global warming and your own role in this regard?
To what extent are your product choices influenced by your views on these issues?
What are your religious convictions? And how do these influence the products and services you buy?
Do you (not) easily leave information on the internet for others to see?
Do you care about what the retailer does with the information gathered via the shopper loyalty card?
The response and observations from the gemba are reworked into a Customer-annex-Citizen table,
step 4: drawing the value table.
I [moral, cultural type] strongly believe in [moral, cultural value] which means that I want to [what to
achieve] ; in order to do so I will [act, refrain from] using [products, services] that are [product or
This moral value would be embedded within a wider range of shared moral and cultural values within
the society. Examples of these values are the obligation to use scarce resources prudently, the equal
care for all, etc. These values act as taboo, restricting the individual customer-annex-citizen, and/or as
a general guideline. Company values operate in the same manner. Both groups of values act as a filter
for the next step, the construction of the moral affinity diagram. Values, moral labels that are in
conflict with these values or taboos are filtered out. This is not as trivial as it may sound. Many values
are held without being generally enforced. Not everything that we hold morally undesirable is in fact
forbidden. Nor is everything that we hold morally desirable obligatory. It is within this range of values
that a company can operate. Depending on its target customer group it can decide which values to
Consider the following example.
I, protestant business manager, believe in maintaining my private sphere which means that I want to
reduce any undue infringement by 3rd parties; in order to do so I will avoid the use of any technique
that jeopardizes my privacy.
I, urban engineer, believe in the power of technology to improve life which means that I want to try
new technological developments; in order to do so I will deploy techniques that benefit my quality of
These statements can be summarized in a customer value table, the equivalent of a customer lifestyle
Table 2 Customer value table
Step 5: draw the affinity diagram, is executed as it always is. Though it is best to let customers
construct the affinity diagram the QFD team should be at hand to clarify some moral notions that
might create confusion. In the moral discourse there are three main bearers of the value: 1) the act and
compliance with norms, 2) the outcome of the act, and 3) the actor
. For some people the accordance
of an act with the norm, the nature of the act is the basis for moral evaluation. Other people hold that
the overall situation should be better even if that means that the action through which it is achieved is
not desirable. Finally, people themselves can be judged based on the virtues they posses. In
constructing the affinity diagrams one must be careful to distinguish between these positions, in
particular, as they might be referred to by the same concept. We advocate using the different ethical
theories as different perspectives on the same subject-matter (see also Van de Poel 2006). This also
helps to overcome the fuzzy nature of moral and cultural values. What amounts to honesty or
trustworthiness is not clear cut and differs from person to person, from group to group, etc. This again
is one of the main drivers to include the values explicitly in the QFD process.
For all the moral positions there is a difference with aesthetical considerations. They are to some
extent less dependent on social interaction than aesthetical values. Drinking fair trade coffee, coffee
that is bought at a higher prices from the small coffee bean farmers so they can make a better living, is
something than one does not easily and broadly advertise. In fact, bringing it up in conversations can
be regarded as self-congratulatory and disapproved. Wearing a colourful dress on the other hand is that
is pleasing in itself, but its approval if not too overt can be sought and is visible in any event.
For physicians, being a good physician means amongst many other things, to be trustworthy. This in
turn means safeguarding the patient’s privacy. Values can be conflicting, which is when moral
dilemmas arise. A physician has also a duty to look after the patient’s health, and perhaps to foster
medical research. The former might mean disclosing patient data to other persons without the patient’s
prior consent. The latter might mean providing patient data to clinical research studies.
This distinction corresponds with the three main branches in normative ethics: deontological ethics,
teleological/consequentialist ethics and virtue ethics.
Table 3 Affinity diagram
I Physician-Patient relationship based on trust
II Proper and timely care
1. “I know I can trust my physician to safeguard
2. “I have an enduring relationship with my
patients based on their trust in my good
intentions for them”
3. “My decisions are transparent”
4. “I know my physician will use information
about me to my best interest”
5. “I know my relatives cannot access my
1. “I can prescribe medicines that do not trigger
2. “In case of an emergency they paramedical
staff knows what medicine I need”
III Efficient use of scarce resources
IV Fostering scientific research
1. “I do not want to provide the same
information time and again”
2. “I want to be able to assess the situation as
fast as possible and run as few medical tests
1. “I want to help scientific research without
giving up confidential information”
2. “I want to provide feedback to research
teams on the effects of the medicine so they
can develop better medicine”
3. “The effects of a treatment can be assessed
over a longer period of time and a large
These quotes from the Gemba show different attitudes towards values. I.1 and I.5 express, in different
degrees, restrictions on the use of patient data per se, that is irrespective of the consequences, a
deontological position. This is in clear contrast to I.4, a consequentialist position, which gives the
physician considerable more room for decision-making. It will be clear that these will make different
demands on the product design. Moreover, they are not just comparable because they express different
aspects (action versus outcome). Using various scenario’s, and feeding the possible design options
back into the process (see the description of steps 7 and 8-11 below) is required to reach a shared
view. This process is referred to as the ethical cycle (Van de Poel) or wide reflective equilibrium (Van
den Hoven, 1997)
Step 6: construct the value hierarchy diagram, is probably one of the more complicated steps of moral
QFD. Since moral concepts can be fuzzy or highly abstract it is difficult to turn them into physical
attributes and product specifications. In Mazur (2005) we find the reference to the work of Nagamachi,
and his notion of Kansei engineering. Kansei engineering aims at designing products that resonate
with the customer’s self-image. Whereas in the lifestyle QFD the senses are used to elicit lifestyle
words, in moral QFD the values are the core element. These are coupled again to physical product
attributes (adopted from Mazur 2005).
In moral and cultural context, concepts often have a very rich meaning: so called ‘thick’ concepts. The
concept of trust varies from culture to culture. In some culture the personal identity is strongly
connected to the group to which one belongs. This means that the value of a personal sphere to which
no one has access unless granted is much lower than in cultures where identity is much stronger linked
to the individual person. On the notion of trust there exist various interpretations. Camp (2003)
proposes a definition in which privacy, security and reliability of a service or a party are constitutive
elements. These notions in turn are linked to authority and integrity. Before a trustworthy service can
be designed a thorough cultural and philosophical analysis is required.
Existing formal tooling can express the value specifications for product properties: deontic logic.
Deontic logic is a branch of modal logic that is used to express obligatory, permissible, gratuitous,
forbidden and optional actions or properties (Wiegel 2005). If a physician has permission to access to
the electronic file record the specification can be formulated as follows.
Physician(i)˄ PatientOf(ij) → P([i STIT Φj])
If i is a physician, and j is a patient of i than it is permissible that i has access to file Φ of patient j.
STIT is another operator from modal logic and stands for see to it that. It is used to express actions.
The point here is not discuss modal logic but just to point out that for the fuzzy concepts of values one
can ultimately derive very precise definitions of the specifications.
Table 4 Value hierarchy diagram
Moral / Kansei domain
Ask patient in
case of doubt
P([i STIT Φj])
NB This case is imaginary though there are several products that display similar features this approach was not
used as far as the authors know. To the contrary it inspired us to formulate the approach and promote the
inclusion of moral and cultural values in the design of products and services in a structural way.
Step 7: Establish priorities, takes the outcome of step 6 as its starting point. In the above value
hierarchy the more fuzzy notions are coupled with physical or logical properties of the product/service
in question. These qualitative relationships need to be turned into quantified relationships between
values and properties that allow the designers to establish the most important value-property
relationships for the targeted customer group.
The similarity with the lifestyle QFD is great in this step. Mostly cultural and moral values are
category data, having either nominal or ordinal scales. Some actions are forbidden or allowed, good or
bad. Other actions or state of affairs can be ranked on an ordinal scale, or they can be labelled in
grades of moral or cultural valuation ranging from morally very good (supererogatory), to good, to
acceptable, to negligent, to bad. What is possible in terms of data types and analysis depends also on
the ethical theory that is used in defining the values. Utilitarianism, for example, uses utility as the
measure of the good. And some strands allow for cardinality of the utility meaning that interval scales
The analytical hierarchy process (AHP) can be used for the pair-wise evaluation of moral and cultural
values of different options. However, elsewhere we argue that the application of AHP needs careful
consideration and constraint (Simons and Wiegel, 2008). We refer the reader to this article where the
method is discussed in detail.
The semantic differential method is also an option to get towards quantification of the relationships. In
this method two opposing labels are provided on a scale from which the consumer-annex-citizen can
choose. Here it is important to consider that with cultural and moral labels the intervals between the
extremes might not be constant. And moreover, that the intermediate values might have different
connotations than ‘somewhat less or more’.
Consider our example of the electronic patient record. If trust is lost because the privacy has been
violated, one does not trust the service a little less. The trust is completely gone. So this is an instance
of a categorical variable on a nominal scale. The overall moral evaluation of the service might, for
example, be indicated on a scale of five ranging from good to bad.
Table 5 Semantic differential survey structure
This scale allows for different interpretations like the one presented above: very good
(supererogatory), to good, to acceptable, to negligent, to bad. Each of these terms has a moral or
cultural connotation. Although there is a ranking order in these labels one can not assert that the
interval between each is constant. In this case one might consider treating them as nominal data. This,
of course, has implications for the statistical methods that can be applied. The information thus
gathered can be processed using the semantic differential method to link properties of products and
services to various values. This method can proceed according to the standard approach.
The one important addition here is the feedback to the customer value table (step 4). As described
before moral and cultural values are seldom clear-cut. Through a process called the wide reflective
equilibrium (Van den Hoven 1997) or ethical cycle (Van de Poel, 2006) values and options are
developed, explored and adjusted. This is an empathically iterative process. In this process various
ethical and cultural positions are adopted to explore the customer situation and the options. Seeing the
consequences of one’s initial moral and cultural values, and their weighing in the form of a product or
service properties might well lead to a reconsideration of the values and their relative weights, as well
as to other values (see section 5, figure 1 for a graphical depiction). In the latter case it is not as if the
values that appear are new but rather they were not articulated or considered relevant at first sight.
Steps 8-11: integrating the value deployment into QFD. These steps in themselves do not change. But
there is an important connection. The outcome of the maximum value table and the available options
are matched to investigate moral admissibility of the options. As described for step 7 there is a need to
create a feedback loop. From step 11, when the design options become clear, the available designs
(rather than the properties in step 7) are fed back into the steps 4 and 7. These steps express the value
and connect the values to product and service specifications respectively. Based on the designs
customers might come to new insights on the values they hold, their relative weighs as well as
uncovering until not expressed values. This iterative nature of the moral QFD process bears
resemblance to the practices of user centred design.
Consider an electronic patient file that contains not only physical diagnoses but also references to
mental problems and the treatment. If now, on first sight, the ready accessibility of the electronic
patient file was deemed most important because of the life saving capacity, authorization is set only
mildly restrictive. On more mature consideration it might become apparent that a far wider circle of
people have access to the file for many years to come even after the treatment has successfully come
to an end. This in turn might lead to stigmatization, loss of career opportunities, etc. Taking these
effects into consideration might lead to a different weighing of the various values. Employing both an
optimistic scenario and a scenario ‘noir’ (Simons, 2008) helps bringing out consequences in a potent
way that improves the ultimate design decisions.
In the paper we argued for the need to incorporate moral values into the product design explicitly. If
complex and rich concepts like trust are to be incorporated in product designs we must provide the
engineers with sufficient concise leads in the form of formal value specifications. These leads must
reflect moral, cultural and regional differences. This means that we must adapt the QFD process to
allow for the nature of moral and cultural values. The new process we outlined looks as follows.
Figure 1 Moral QFD
AHP, multi-variate, etc.
AHP, multi-variate, etc.
We demonstrated how Moral QFD can be applied to analyse the deep, moral values with respect to
quality deployment and quality characteristics. As this is a proposal our next step is to apply the
approach to actual design of services and products
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