Product Scenario: How to Handle the HiPPO in Product

As a new PM hire in a company, let’s imagine you got approached by the HiPPO “highest-paid person in the room’s opinion" in your org to ‘improve’ a feature/ product that will not add value to your users

What is your first response? How do you defend your product roadmap? What kind of data or key insights do you use to manage expectations?

First of all, I don’t see why your answer should depend on the person asking the question ;). So whether it’s the so called HiPPO, c-level manager or someone you manage, I would always use the same tactics and fall back on data proving/predicting the value of the requested changes and put that in perspective of the existing roadmap.

Robert, I take your point … but HIPPOs require some special care because unlike other stakeholders they can literally trample you! Seriously though, being crisp and concise is critically important in these situations given that they are likely very busy. Following this, showing up with the most salient piece of data as a headline is key AND providing a viable alternative that they can get behind helps.

I agree with you @Rsmartly being crisp and concise is important, but I try to act that way when talking whoever. I value everyone’s time, since everyone is busy (though maby on a different level) or maybe I simply have a lack sensitivity to hierarchy :wink:

I think you both have great points.

Re: what @robertzalme is saying – there’s also a cultural aspect to this (both company culture and regional culture) that makes this easier / harder for different people. I’ve had the opportunity to work in the USA and in the Middle East, and generally speaking, in the US people are far more reluctant to voice their opinions or opposition to their superiors.

I’d add that in addition to leaning on data and presenting viable alternatives, it’s also important to ask questions to better understand what are the core thoughts / assumptions behind their suggestion. It’s possible that there’s something very valuable hidden in what the Hippo is saying – maybe they have a unique insight or know about some strategic initiative. It’s possible that the solution they’re proposing isn’t the right one, but if you could figure out why they’re so adamant about the feature they’re pushing, maybe you’ll be able to take that and find the right way to incorporate it into your product in a way that is useful for your users.

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Good points @geffen :+1: One additional thought here. If we think of the HIPPO as a different customer than our peers than we can start to recognize that s/he has a unique set of needs that require an adjusted approach. Just as we do not treat all our customers the same, we should not treat all stakeholders the same.


Wow! food for thought @Rsmartly. Thank you for adding this perspective. Never thought of ‘treating’ my internal stakeholders as customers.

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