Smart Thinking

Highest Paid Persons Opinion Anti Pattern

Highest Paid Persons Opinion (HIPPO Anti Pattern) – problems that arise when organisational hierarchy overrides expertise.

In 1994, Francis Lee became chairman of Manchester City, ousting Peter Swales from the position after purchasing £3m pounds worth of shares.

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He was welcomed as a hero by City’s supporters, who backed his attempt to gain control of the club. In 1996, Lee appointed his friend Alan Ball as manager, but the appointment proved unsuccessful and the club were relegated. Lee stepped down in 1998, with the club on the brink of relegation to the English Third Division.

Lee had something of a reputation for interfering with team selection. It is understandably difficult for a manager to refuse the chairman, but the club suffered. Lee dominated, the manager was complicit and the results were not produced to forgive the ‘presence of the anti pattern’.

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The Anti Pattern Codified

Anti Pattern Name: HIPPOHighest Paid Person’s Opinion

Type: Cultural, Managerial

Problem: Meddling in decision making and failing to adhere to strategy, principles or governance processes. In certain cultures, organisational hierarchy is strictly obeyed which results in subordinates toeing the line without protestation. Highest Paid Person’s Opinion is a problem when the HIPP (Highest Paid Person) is not suitably qualified.

Context: Bullish management, often preceded by a period of stagnation or indecision, HIPPO intervention may or may not be helpful.

Forces: Stagnation, interventionism, mavericks, control, deferential culture.

Resulting Context: Manchester City nearly ended up in Division Three.

Solution(s): Challenge the HIPPO, test it as rigorously as any other solution hypothesis. Acknowledge the potential danger of deferential behaviour.

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By Steve Nimmons

Steve is a Certified European Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of Arts, Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is an Electric Circle Patron of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a Liveryman and Freeman of London and serves on numerous industry panels. He is a member of Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute and the Chartered Institute of Journalists.