Behold, the Product Management Prioritization Menagerie

Dean Peters
Dean On Delivery
Published in
5 min readSep 28, 2018


TL;DR — Folks, it’s a zoo out there, especially when it comes to feature prioritization. Below is my own O’Rly bookshelf to prove my point …

… each followed by at least one related blog post or news article on each of these 5 beasts that graze upon our prioritization process.

QUICK UPDATE 01Dec20 — Thanks for the folks at Productboard for having me them to join them in a webinar titled ‘The Dangerous Animals of Product Management.

You’re gracious invitation inspired the following follow-up blog post, appropriately titled ‘Son of a Product Management Prioritization Menagerie!’

HiPPO — Highest Paid Person’s Opinion

HiPPO — Highest Paid Person’s Opinion

Here’s an interesting Forbes article around the demise of JC Penny’s titled “What Happens When a ‘HiPPO’ Runs Your Company?

Did you know hippos in the wild are extraordinarily dangerous to humans? While that may not be true for products, it’s still best to be cautious, taking heed of the warning in a follow-up Forbes article titled ‘Data-Driven Decision Making: Beware Of The HIPPO Effect!

Oh, and by all means read the ‘HiPPO FAQ’, which includes a brief history of how Avinash Kaushik and Ronny Kohavi penned this term.

RHiNO — Really High-value, New Opportunity

Really High-value, New Opportunity

Enjoy this recent article on this topic via the Product Focus people aptly titled ‘Taming the RHINO.’

I’d also recommend a read of this useful Aha! blog post titled ‘The Product Manager’s Guide to “This Feature Will Close the Deal.”

ZEbRA — Zero Evidence, but Really Arrogant

ZEbRA — Zero Evidence, but Really Arrogant

Not sure I agree with all the points raised in this post titled “In Defense of the Hi.P.P.O … Fear the Z.E.B.R.A.” but it’s worth a read, and gives further explanation to our stripey-pants counterparts.

What I do believe is that more often than not, really smart and successful people often feel their past performance is a guarantee of future success. As a result, as product people, we need to figure out how to manage this without making said stakeholders, sponsors, or customers feel a loss of agency.

Here are a couple of articles plus a book along these lines:

WoLF — Works on Latest Fire

WoLF — Works on Latest Fire

Ok, this next reference isn’t a blog post, but an entire book that describes WoLF prioritization in a very readable and enjoyable format: “The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

Once you’re done with the above read, here are some titles on the topic so you understand why your engineering and DevOps teams keep asking you to add continuous integration and continuous delivery stories to the backlog:

Seriously folks, get this done so you can ‘Avoid a visit from your friendly neighborhood Technical Debt Collector’ … your kneecaps will thank you.

Seagull Management

Seagull Management — Swoop in, make noise, crap everywhere, leave a mess

Are You A Seagull Manager? This Forbes article by the same name suggests we might be if we fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly off leaving everyone else to deal with your mess.

IMHO, this happens either out of low EQ on the part of a manager, or a leader whose best intentions to help actually hinder.

Some reading on this topic include:

Travis Bradberry, Ph.D. has also recently published a book on this topic titled ‘The Seagull Manager: How to stop the swooping, squawking, and dumping.’

Keep in mind, all of the above is not meant to be an attack on stakeholders, customers, sponsors, engineering teams, etc. Rather, this is my call to all my product management peeps to adopt strategies, not tactics, but strategies for helping these individuals engage in the prioritization process in a way you ‘… have empathy for the symptoms, but a cure for the cause …’ and they retain their sense of agency.

If you don’t, you may find yourself looking in the mirror and asking yourself “When did I become a JIRA-Slinging Ticket Monkey?

Additional Reading

How about you?

Got some additional links to podcasts, blog posts, & videos on this topic? If so, drop a comment below!




Dean Peters
Dean On Delivery

Agile product manager, recovering programmer, servant leader, former pro opera singer, husband & dad. Opinions & ideas expressed here are solely my own.