It's a high priority, from our CEO

Who here can relate to this scenario?  

HiPPO - Highest Paid Person’s Opinion

Your marketing/merchandising team, along with the in-house development team work to execute on a feature backlog that's been prioritized by product owners, estimated by the development team and aligns with the organization's strategic objectives.  In short, the team is working diligently against an agreed upon and documented plan. 

At some point, the CEO, owner or active board member walks in with a pet project - something bright & shiny that may or may not roll up to the organizations strategic objectives.  The current initiatives get ungracefully put on the shelf, as the new project takes center stage; often times without requirements and with a fire-drill timeline.  

Have you faced this challenge?  Please share your feedback via this Twitter poll. 

This scenario is not limited to digital initiatives.  While it tends to be prevalent within work groups that drive revenue, it can typically be found throughout the organization.  Digital projects are especially at risk for HiPPO injection.  That's because digital topics can be found in every industry trade journal & conference, as well as just about every business media.  

A few thoughts that may help the business counter the counter the disruption of the HiPPO.  


Digital / customer experience is a discipline that we work consistently.  Last minute injections disrupt the cadence that we work hard to maintain.  Last minute disruptions that don't align with strategic objectives can become counter productive to the mission of the group.  One of the most telling shows of support is when a CEO takes their new idea and works it through the same backlog process that everyone else uses.   

Wisdom of the crowds

I'm always surprised when leadership at a organizations limit their idea and problem solving network to management, or worse, to the HiPPO.  By doing that (or allowing that) they miss the value of external perspective, experience and fresh ideas.  To generate good ideas, you need lots of ideas (good & bad) to evaluate.  Limiting input at the idea stage puts an unnecessary choke point on the organization. 

Data driven decisions

"Let's test it" are three powerful words that should be used every time a new idea is presented.  Building testing into the organization's everyday practices is essentially a permission slip to experiment.  Testing early, with agreed upon goals and KPI's both empowers and inspires creatives within the organization.  An older, but still relevant HBR article aligns a testing model with the development of an experimentation culture.   

During my writing, I shifted my thoughts from the HiPPO to recommendations for the team.  That's what needs to happen at the office as well.