You’re presenting a well-crafted product roadmap to a room of stakeholders and crew members when a senior chief begins to take over the assembly. This individual is asserting their very own judgments, suggesting alterations, and usually shifting focus away out of your plan. Whereas these actions could come from a spot of fine intentions and former expertise, the impact will be demoralizing. If not dealt with appropriately, this situation also can have destructive penalties on the product roadmap.
Should you’ve been a product supervisor for any size of time, you’ve seemingly discovered your self on this state of affairs, face-to-face with the HiPPO: the “highest-paid individual’s opinion.” The opinions of a high-ranking or influential individual within the group—who is usually the individual in a gathering with the best wage—are inclined to take priority over the insights of different crew members. With such authority, the HiPPO can have a major impression on the course of the product roadmap; thus, going up in opposition to, and even disagreeing with, the HiPPO will be extraordinarily intimidating.
I’ve been constructing merchandise for greater than a decade and I nonetheless frequently encounter the HiPPO. Over that point, nonetheless, I’ve developed methods to enact earlier than any product roadmap presentation to make sure stakeholder satisfaction and the perfect roadmap potential.
Why HiPPOs Are Harmful
In a product improvement context, the HiPPO’s impression will be harmful once they impose adjustments based mostly on private expertise, instinct, or with out full information of the product or the vary of things that would have an effect on its success. Moreover, these adjustments is probably not according to buyer wants or market traits, leading to merchandise which might be outdated, irrelevant, or fail to satisfy buyer expectations.
One other downside arises when the HiPPO is threat averse, preferring the relative security of ways they’ve seen work properly up to now. This may result in a scarcity of innovation or a stagnant product roadmap. It will possibly additionally result in losing time and assets on tasks that find yourself failing, being axed, or getting redirected down the road.
Generally, government enter can lead to roadmaps which have much less room for creativity and experimentation. Agile product roadmaps ought to talk outcomes fairly than the outputs that Waterfall roadmaps usually do, however the 2023 State of Product Administration Report discovered that 70% of roadmaps most affected by requests from government management concentrate on speaking outputs over outcomes.
Product roadmaps frequently influenced by the HiPPO can stifle creativity and injury the morale of the product crew. That is probably probably the most detrimental impression of all, as a high-functioning crew is important to success.
Methods to Handle the HiPPO
Whereas HiPPOs pose many challenges, there are steps you possibly can take to keep up management of your product and get buy-in from management.
Develop a Excessive-quality, Proof-based Roadmap
Step one is to make sure you have a product roadmap that works. This can be a important basis for countering any opposing views, as you possibly can have full confidence that your roadmap is the correct approach to go.
A powerful product roadmap ought to embody a transparent imaginative and prescient and targets, in addition to a timeline for reaching them, with key milestones plotted. Determine the stakeholders concerned at every stage of the method. Select how you’ll measure success. Resolve which metrics to trace (e.g., buyer satisfaction, engagement, income). Use this knowledge to validate the standard of your future roadmaps.
For good product roadmap execution, determine how you’ll monitor progress, overview and replace the roadmap, and check and validate concepts. Quantitative knowledge from surveys, mixed with qualitative sentiment assortment from interviews and different interactions, presents compelling insights which might be laborious to refute. Knowledge from different sources, reminiscent of market analysis and competitor evaluation, ought to be utilized too. You need to have the ability to reply to buyer suggestions and adapt to altering wants; you are able to do this by incorporating a suggestions loop into the roadmap.
Set up a Resolution-making Course of
To be able to keep management of your product roadmap, create a strong course of for decision-making. Should you don’t have one already, develop a framework for gathering buyer knowledge and evaluating this info. This course of and its outcomes ought to be clearly documented and communicated to all stakeholders, together with the senior determine. Refer again to this evaluation to counter any opinions that don’t align together with your evidence-based roadmap.
Put collectively a crew with representatives from all related departments, together with product administration, engineering, advertising, and buyer help. This crew could have the authority to make collaborative selections based mostly on each knowledge and subject material experience at sure factors within the roadmap (though it’s best to take steps to make sure that having this crew in place doesn’t decelerate your improvement course of). Ought to the HiPPO intervene, this constant analysis will make sure the product stays on monitor.
Talk Commonly With Stakeholders
Each stakeholder—together with the senior determine—is essential in making a profitable product, however it’s essential to make sure that there’s a clear understanding of the product roadmap and every individual’s function in it throughout all departments.
Set up one system for protecting stakeholders knowledgeable of adjustments to the roadmap, and one other system for gathering, evaluating, responding to, and incorporating their suggestions. When everybody feels heard, you’ll encounter fewer points alongside the journey.
Foster Belief within the Product Crew
Belief can be an important part in constructing constructive long-term relationships between the senior determine and the product crew. Strengthen belief by celebrating evidence-based selections from crew members that produce profitable outcomes. A technique that has labored properly in my expertise is a month-to-month or quarterly award given to a person or group that tackled an issue having a detrimental impression on the product. This serves to show the worth and experience of the crew, which is able to afford higher autonomy from senior figures sooner or later. It additionally emphasizes the significance of data-driven decision-making.
Set Clear Expectations
Lastly, and maybe most significantly, previous to any roadmap discussions, develop a system in partnership with the senior determine and your product crew to handle their involvement in decision-making. You need to enable all events to really feel heard whereas setting clear expectations for his or her roles and obligations. Everybody—together with senior figures—ought to be held accountable for his or her selections and enter and be anticipated to supply proof to help them. Make sure to doc these processes formally and clearly for all crew members. (This course of could even deter the senior determine from providing unfounded opinions.)
Meet with the senior determine in a one-on-one setting a day or two earlier than any massive displays, giving them a discussion board through which to precise their considerations and you a chance to handle these previous to the assembly. An intimate setting makes it simpler to have harder discussions with out the added strain of an viewers.
Product Roadmaps Are Pushed by Knowledge, Not Expertise
The success of a product roadmap relies on being pushed by knowledge fairly than private expertise or instinct. The HiPPO can, due to this fact, have a major impression if their enter is just not dealt with properly. Making use of the straightforward however efficient methods I’ve laid out right here can mitigate and stop injury to the roadmap, product, and crew. Having clear roles and bounds in place, constructing belief, and making evidence-based selections are important.
Sturdy, constant processes will assist you and your crew confidently design and execute product roadmaps which might be according to buyer wants and market traits—and that may result in worthwhile merchandise. Suggestions from senior figures can undoubtedly be useful, however in relation to the product and its roadmap, you and your crew ought to have the insights that matter most.