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How to Train Your Hippo By Ozlem Yuce "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 13 January 2020 True Decision Making, HiPPO, mtp engage manchester, team building, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 477 Ozlem Yuce speaks at MTP Engage Manchester Product Management 1.908
· 2 minute read

How to Train Your Hippo By Ozlem Yuce

In this MTP Engage Manchester talk, Ozlem Yuce, Chief Product Officer at Agile at Heart gives us some insight on how we can better deal with the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO) in our organizations. She explains why the HiPPO can be so damaging and what to do about it as a product person.

Her key points include:

  • Damage caused by HiPPOs
  • Tactics to train your HiPPO

Watch the video to see Ozlem’s talk in full. Or read on for an overview of her key points.

Damage Caused by HiPPOs

Ozlem begins by telling a story about her time at a market-leading Fortune 500 company when she knew their products needed updating to provide more value for their customers. The idea was to run an experiment to transform the customer experience but it needed C-level buy-in. Unfortunately, despite calculations that suggested otherwise, the HiPPO proposed an unrealistic deadline that in the end proved detrimental to the project. In her experience, HiPPOs can be responsible for forced commitment dates, decisions made without relevant data as well as features that provide no value. However, she does offer a solution.

Tactics to Train Your HiPPO

To avoid costly mistakes that don’t benefit the company, Ozlem suggests a few tactics to help product managers train the HiPPO in the organization and make sure that everything goes smoothly.

  1. Make the work done, and progress being made by the team, visible. This may include doing things like calculating the cycle time to show how long it takes to ship a product. Building awareness in this way and understanding how fast or slow the development team is moving in certain tasks can help to avoid issues.
  2. Practice the art of asking questions. The HiPPO in an organization usually has a good reason for wanting to trust their gut or push the boundaries of the product team. By building relationships and involving them in the process then everyone can be on the same page.
  3. Use the rule of three to guide and inform decisions. Provide at least three possible solutions to a problem so that it’s easier to decide which method to choose by assessing the positives and negatives of each.
  4. Use parallel thinking and collaborate to find solutions to problems instead of going head to head to win an argument.
  5. Put a price tag on the time it takes to specific tasks so that assumptions about value and urgency can be shared. This allows you to appeal to the analytical side of the HiPPO’s brain and can help them to see what you see.

The key takeaway from Ozlem’s talk is that it’s important to recognize the difficulties that the HiPPO can cause in an organization. Many of us will eventually find ourselves in this same situation in our careers so we should remember to not be hypocrites.

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