Watch out for the HiPPO

Way back in 2008 when I wrote chapter three of HWTSAM, I briefly mentioned the HiPPO in the context of ship room (war room) meeting structure:

Everyone’s voice is important. A phrase heard in many war rooms is “Don’t listen to the HiPPO”—where HiPPO is an acronym for highest-paid person’s opinion.

It was a term I came across, but could not find attribution. I discovered fairly recently that Ronny Kohavi (whom I’ve stolen  / borrowed from liberally when discussing A/B testing and experimentation) who came up with the term in 2006.

My old colleague Seth Eliot also discussed the HiPPO in a blog post in a post last year.

While many organizational leaders aspire to become the next Steve Jobs, just about all of them will fail (as an aside, I was in a meeting once where a very senior person said that they made a critical decision, because “it’s what Steve Jobs would do, , and I’m like Steve Jobs”). What I’ve discovered is that no matter how strongly someone feels they “know what’s best for the customer”, without data, they’re almost always wrong.

It can be a big step to use data over organizational rank to make decisions, but if you care about pleasing your customers, the choice is obvious.

4 Comments

  1. Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    “no matter how strongly someone feels they “know what’s best for the customer”, without data, they’re almost always wrong.”

    Wow… that is so profound, did you coin that term of phrase yourself, or read it somewhere cause that is awesome!

  2. Posted November 30, 2016 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Something I have learned in Microsoft is that having data is just means to an end and not a goal by itself.
    The family of products you and I work on produce a huge amount of customer data, there a significant distance from it to answering the “is my customer happy” question

    An interesting read (actually hear) about data and interpreting it, is-
    http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/02-saigon-1965

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