Angela Merkel, HiPPOs and decision making
So Angela Merkel yesterday withdrew the decision to add another non-workday before Easter (cf. deutschland.de video of Angela Merkel’s press conference), apologizing and taking full responsibility for the half-baked idea. Many people paid her respect for this and so do I. Some thoughts on this, though:
First of all, this half-baked idea was the result of a meeting going on for far too long. As some MP said, they first heard of the idea at 23:45 in the evening, after the discussions had been running for many hours. As most knowledge workers would know, a typical effect of working too hard for too long is that the quality of your outcomes is diminishing. Too often, reflecting back on the result of yesterday’s overnight session will reveal that your fabulous idea might actually be totally off.
Second, apparently no experts were around which would have an idea of what it would entail to make this additional day-off a reality. This looks a lot like a decision based on “HiPPO”, the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Generally speaking, results are better if experts prepare options with effort / benefit arguments. And usually, it’s better to postpone a decision to “do it this way” until you know that it actually can be done that way.
Last but not least I find it a pity that the behavior of Angela Merkel, to openly admit a mistake, is apparently exceptional and surprising to many people. Admitting mistakes and taking responsibility should be the norm for any leader and not the exception. As a leader, you want to understand the problems your team is facing and what mistakes people are making. How else could you improve your results? But if you are not leading by example and are not open about your mistakes, it is likely that your people might have the impression that it is only okay to talk about the great accomplishments. This in turn means that everybody is afraid to make any mistake, trying to reduce risks at all costs, which will kill any positive attitude and atmosphere. Good luck trying to achieve great results in a context like that.