Are your programs suffering from Squeaky Hippos? Let’s find out.

First of all, you’re likely wondering what a Squeaky Hippo is. It’s a combination of a squeaky wheel and the highest paid person’s opinion. 

The challenge with most training programs – and corporate development programs in general – is that all feedback and evidence that the program is effective or not is based on anecdotal data collected via feedback forms. 

Why is this a problem?

It’s a problem because not everyone completes their feedback form. It’s reminiscent of Google Reviews wherein the people that post a review either have an extremely negative opinion or an extremely positive opinion. It ends up being polarizing and misses the majority of the population who are more often than not, somewhere in between.

To illustrate Squeaky Hippos and how to address them let’s look at a case study within the Actionable portfolio.

Squeaky Hippos in their Natural Habitat

A couple of years ago a UK client of ours was working with a very large retailer. They had designed a leadership training program for the executive team, directors, and senior managers. This three-band program was intensive and had a fairly sizable price tag attached to it. The client was using Actionable as a vehicle to sustain and measure the behavior change impact of their programming. 

The program itself was designed to be a six-month program working on a staggered start for those three groups. About two months into the training for the senior executives the executive team decided – fairly unanimously – that this program was not working.

They stated that it was “too fluffy” for them and that it was not tied to their business objectives. They felt so strongly about this that they wanted to terminate the program. In fact, they told the facilitator they were not only terminating it for themselves but for the entire organization. 

For context, this contract represented a sizable piece of work for this consulting firm – around 30-40% of their annual revenue. 

Besides the obvious problem of the potential loss of revenue for the firm, there was another problem, the real problem. The facilitators didn’t really believe the executives as to why they didn’t want to continue to do the work. 

The facilitators felt the material was too confronting for the senior leadership group and that – once exposed to this information and how it related to them – the executives didn’t like what they saw. 

Instead of doing the difficult work of self-reflection they were blaming the program. 

Perhaps you can relate to this, either from programs you have run in the past or stories you have heard from fellow consultants?. 

The challenge then became how does the firm tell the executives it’s not the program but in fact, them? That is not a particularly compelling message and not likely to win ongoing business. 

Data Reveals the Full Picture

Leveraging the Actionable data, the consulting firm was able to show the executive team the behavior change that was taking place. 

Not only the change that was taking place but also what types of behaviors people were working on, how strong of a change that was creating and the ultimate business impact of that change. 

The consultants were able to generate a report that same day when they got the response from the client and encouraged them to explore what was actually happening. 

This firm was very good at what they did so were able to massage the message while still getting across their main point: this is extremely effective for the other 92% of the people that are going through this program, for you 6 – for reasons unknown –  it seems to not be working as well but here is the data that this is working across the broader organization. 

They were able to take a couple thousand data points from what had at this point amassed to a couple hundred participants that their program was, in fact, gaining traction. 

The consultant was then able to come to a natural conclusion for the work with the senior executive team while continuing the program for the other two layers of directors and senior managers. This allowed them to preserve the majority of their contract value. 

This outcome was achieved through data. Were it not for the data they would have been reliant on the “he said/she said” of the senior executive team and of course, the senior executive team are the highest paid individuals within the organization.

The senior executives could have thwarted the program based on the Squeaky Hippo.

The squeaky wheels and the highest paid people’s opinions are not representative of the collective. 

In order to showcase the true impact your work is having, you need a democratized system for collecting ongoing feedback, not just opinions but that actual impact that is taking place. As Edward Denning said, “In God we trust. All others bring data”. 

This is what we do at Actionable. If you’re curious to learn more about it or think we can help you we’d love to hear from you. 

Book a discovery call with us today.

We can’t wait to meet you.