3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Developing Your BHAG

By Jessica Wishart

BHAG Pitfalls to Avoid

A key piece of your long-term strategy is your 10-25 year visionary stretch goal, what Jim Collins calls BHAG Pitfalls to Avoidyour Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). Your BHAG is so important because it helps you grow with purpose. It should provide guidance and help you and everyone else in your company choose between the opportunities that arise as you continue to grow.  

Here are some pitfalls to avoid as you develop this key piece of your strategy:

1.     Don't go with the first idea you have.  

Sometimes your first idea is a brilliant one, but more often than not our first ideas are like the first pancakes in the batch before the griddle is the right temperature…  you know, the ones you feed the dog or hide under the pile of prettier pancakes! If your company uses your BHAG correctly, it will guide your decision-making on a daily basis for the next 10-25 years, so it is critical to take the time to really think about it. Your BHAG should come out of that place where your passion meets your financial driver and what your company can be best in the world at delivering. Figuring out how these three things come together and then connecting it to a long-term goal takes some serious thought. Write that first idea down, and then get into a Think Rhythm and challenge yourself to come up with as many ideas as you can. Maybe the first idea ends up being the best one, but probably the deeper you dig, the better your ideas will be. Long-term strategy is a process, not an event; even Jim Collins himself worked with Starbucks for nearly a year to come up with their BHAG to be the #1 consumer brand in the world.

2.     Don't choose something that doesn't inspire your team.  

If your BHAG is strictly financially-oriented or if it is too complex to be easily understood, it won't get your team excited. Your BHAG should appeal to the heart as well as the head. The point of having a long-term goal is to paint a future vision for your company that stretches your team, tapping into their passion and giving them alignment and focus as they work toward a single goal. As Patrick Thean has said, "ambition causes innovation, excitement, and creativity." If you pick a BHAG that is too complicated or number-driven, then chances are your team won't be excited and won't remember it or use it to make decisions about how they spend their time and your resources. Having a boring BHAG won't help you in the long run. This is another key reason to develop your BHAG as part of a process or a Think Rhythm. If you take your time with this rather than rushing to fill in that box on your One Page Strategic Plan, you'll have a chance to test your ideas and gather data. Talk to your team. Are they excited by this idea? Do they remember it? Can they think of ways that it would guide their decisions and work activities? If not, then go back to the drawing board!

3.     Don't set a goal that you already know how to accomplish or one that you can't measure progress toward accomplishing.

If you know how to achieve it, it is not Big, Hairy, or Audacious enough! A BHAG should require some innovation on your part; if you feel 100% confident today that you'll hit your goal, then it is probably not really a BHAG. Patrick has said that your BHAG should make you gulp. Your team should scratch their heads when you ask them about how you're going to achieve this goal. You want everyone in your company thinking about it, stretching themselves, and coming up with some innovative solutions to propel you toward this future goal. But, make sure that you know how you are going to measure your progress toward achieving this goal. You need a mechanism in place to gauge whether you've reached the top of your mountain at the end of the 10-25 years… this clarity will also be motivating for your team. If they know exactly where you are trying to go, it will give them extreme focus to make decisions that bring you closer to your BHAG.

Good luck developing or refining your BHAG with these three pitfalls in mind. For help working on your BHAG, download Patrick's BHAG Discussion Tool as a guide, use the Rhythm BHAG screens and help from your Rhythm consultant.

Have you run into any other pitfalls when working on your own BHAG?  Our team would love to hear your experiences and lessons learned or even an example of the great BHAG you've come up with and how you got there. Leave us a comment and share your ideas and stories.

Free Guide:
3 Steps to Create Your BHAG

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images  

Looking for some more information on BHAG to help get you started? Check out our additional resources:

BHAG Best Practices

Classic BHAG Examples

Do You Have a Personal BHAG?

Does Your Company's BHAG Connect to Your Hedgehog?

Why Having a BHAG Matters

What Drives Your Financial Engine? Profit/X Examples

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Dec. 4, 2013, and has been updated.

Jessica Wishart


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images