There’s 101 different articles and explanations on the classic 4 Animals of Product Management and how to tame them; the Hi.P.P.O., Z.E.B.R.A., R.Hi.N.O, and W.O.L.F. They all represent a person or group of people within your organization that have a negative influence on your product roadmap, prioritization process, or working capabilities throughout. However, is there a king of the animal kingdom? Is there a species that can control and counterbalance these ‘Dangerous 4’? I give you, the LIONMOOSETIGERPANDABIRD.
“The what now? Come on, that’s not a real animal. That’s a combination of animals!” Yes, exactly – and ‘bear’ with me (pun intended) on the explanation why.
What do these abbreviations mean?
First, you need to understand a little bit of context regarding these four abbreviated dangers of the wild. There are many articles that go in a lot more depth on each of these. I will give you a quick synopsis, so we can continue with the LMTPB.
The HiPPO is the most classic one, and widely known in the Scrum and other Agile Methodology spectrums. It stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. C-level management more often than not has their own idea about how processes should form, business should be conducted, or tasks should be done. After all, they’ve navigated the office-waters for a while already and built up the experience on these subjects. You don’t want to fight an uphill battle on this one (or rather, downstream in case of a real hippo).
🦛 HiPPO: Plan of Action (HiPPOPOtA…mus)
There’s two schools of thought here. One is that they are right and should be listened to. The other, most supported one, is to make sure they are rather in support of your ideas instead. I say; combine the two! After all, they are (your direct) managers and you don’t want to get on their bad side. Moreover, they do know about the business and have seen certain things fail. They just simply know about what works through years and years of experience.
However, if you want to challenge their ideas by bringing better ones to the table, make sure that you have the data to back your thoughts up. Convince them like they are investors. Talk to them regularly and before any (official) meeting, so you are better aligned on your thoughts. After all; it’s just the HiPP’s Opinion, meaning that it can be influenced and changed.
ZEBRA stands for Zero Evidence But Really Arrogant. Evidently, you should not be a ZEBRA in front of a HiPPO. Being confident in business is good, being cocky (pun not intended) about it is less good. And you can believe that something will or won’t work, but ultimately you need to look at KPIs to confirm your intuition. So bringing nothing tangible to the table but shouting about how great it is, works rather counter productive within an organization.
🦏 Two RHINOs are Worse Than One
RHINO has two meanings, and both are bad. Firstly, let’s go with Really Here In Name Only. It’s also called ‘a lazy ass’ (puns are fun, no?). It brings me back to school, and I’m 100% everyone understand the situation. You are forced to be in a pre-defined group, and there’s just this one character that doesn’t contribute at all but still gets the passing grade.
The other RHiNO, Really High-value New Opportunity, is more of a danger in disguise. It assumes you already have built a highly profitable or successful plan for the next few months, but now a person comes to the meeting with an even better option.
The word ‘better’ here is relative, because your plan is logically built and accustomed to your entire user base needs, whereas this new idea tailors a more short-term gain or specific user. Having a clearly defined prioritization strategy will help other RHiNOs to understand when to pitch new ideas, and everyone else in the same meeting to focus instead on the bigger picture.
Working On Latest Fire is not exactly a productive activity; the contrary. It’s not focused, effective nor efficient. But, it happens all too often that someone storms in (HiPPO, anyone?) and has a new top priority to work on (reasons are unclear, of course). What’s also common is that that top priority switches to a new one five times a week.
🦁🦌🐯🐼🦅 So Tell Me About The LMTPB
As you might have expected by now, my experience is mostly in Product Marketing and the Agile / Scrum scenes, so I’ve worked quite a bit with the first two. However, I’ve also worked with their respective counterparts, and aspire to be an opposing alpha myself. Moreover and thankfully, there are actually many workhorses who counter these Dangerous 4. But it’s just because the influence of these four is so big, that they do need to be looked out for. So what kind of creature can counter them?
Good Product Managers should be big, bulky, strong, strong-headed, firm, with their four feet on the ground – but at the same time nimble, swift, silent, and looking out for the best winds to ride. And while I am sure there are many other abbreviations we can come up with, here are the five that came to my mind:
Lion – Leading Innovation On Nitro
Moose – Manager Of Organizational Strategy Everyday
Tiger – Tactical Intelligence Greater Than Eccentric Rambling
Panda – Practiced And Necessary Data Analyst
Bird – Building Iteratively, Reasoned, Data-driven
It’s like The Office meets Power Rangers. Credit: Seanprai
As a good Product Manager, Marketer, or any business person for that matter, you need to have the right skills to succeed. And by succeed, I mean drive value for the organization. You need to be innovative to continuously grow. You need to be strategic so you can plan ahead and avoid obstacles.
You need to know what you are doing, and measure it with KPIs. You need to be organized, planned, and calculated. You need to be excited about optimizing user flows, and finding solutions to usability problems (check out my UX Cheat Sheet blog post). You need to bring actual results that make sense, are thought-through, and intentional. You are the silent leader that charges, shows the way, takes initiative, and soars. Drive value, and support growth. You need to be … a LIONTIGERPANDAMOOSEBIRD. 🦁🦌🐯🐼🦅
When I shared this with a bunch of brilliant-minded Product Owners, they brought some other animal elements to the table that are worth sharing:
- POs are versatile figures, and adapt to organizations, teams, and different industries. If we want to keep the metaphor to animals, I would add a chameleon.
- These animals (read: people) shouldn’t be caged (read: held back). Set them free and enjoy the diversity they bring to your organization.