Caution: Management by Hippopotamus


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There is a HiPPO in the room. It is big, loud, ugly and everybody is doing what it wants.

The HiPPO is the Highest Paid Persons Opinion.

You can spot HiPPO’s quite easily, they are expressed forcefully, everybody nods and agrees with them and they are always the last thing said.

A HiPPO is a dangerous thing

HiPPO’s can kill. But surprisingly it isn’t the big dumb bad-tempered HiPPO’s you need to watch (admit it, you have heard a couple) those are easily shrugged off.

The most dangerous HiPPO’s are the totally reasonable and sensible small ones, the ones you find yourself agreeing with without thinking about it:

The most dangerous HiPPO’s are so believable they treated as facts, not opinions at all.

Opinions and facts are not the same thing

An opinion is just a hunch, an idea or a theory but a fact is demonstrable, proven with experience and data.

The only way to turn an opinion into a fact is to try it out and see what happens, measuring the outcome and learning from it.

The way to prove an opinion is to test it

And the real beauty of a test is that it will teach you something new. It is only when you have learnt something new that you can step up and improve your performance.

Better still, once you have stepped up and improved you can move on to a new theory or opinion, based on what you now know. You can test that, learn again and improve again, ad infinitum.

But neither opinions, nor actions will take you very far unless you lock them together and learn from them. The trick is to test and learn.

Unfortunately facts and learning don’t last

Facts don’t remain facts for very long, water boils at 100 degrees Celsius, that is a fact, unless you live up a mountain. So you can’t make a decent cup of tea up a mountain, that is a fact, unless you use a pressure cooker… And so it goes.

Testing and learning is hard work.

It is a lot easier to simply assert an opinion as a fact.

Is your highly paid person worth the money?

Your highly paid person will have opinions, we all have them, they are not hard to come by but opinions by themselves are pretty worthless.

If however your highly paid person will put his opinions to the test, to see if they are right or wrong and learns from the experience, then he is worth every last penny.

And that is not just an opinion, I have tested a couple of mine (they will agree).

Republished with author's permission from original post.

James Lawther
James Lawther is a middle-aged middle manager. To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for many organisations, from supermarkets to tax collectors and has had multiple roles from running a night shift to doing operational research. He gets upset by operations that don't work and mildly apoplectic about poor customer service.


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