BHAG Examples for Setting your Big Hairy Audacious Goals

By Jessica Wishart

BHAG Examples for Setting your Big Hairy Audacious Goals

I recently re-read the classic HBR article entitled "Building Your Company's Vision" by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, and I was struck by the great examples they gave to illustrate different types of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). If you are asking yourself "What is a BHAG?" or struggling to come up with an audacious goal for the first time, these examples will help you get started as it is a powerful tool to align your company around a single mission statement. These may also be helpful if you are working with your team to reset after accomplishing your 10-25 year goal outlined in your vision statement.  I Don't let your team fall into the trap of complacency after reaching the finish line of one BHAG (pronounced bee hag); celebrate your success, and then reset. Having a long term, a visionary goal is a habit of successful companies that becomes the unifying focal point of effort that aligns your team and gets everyone excited is the only way your company will continue to grow with purpose and increase team spirit.

Download a free BHAG guide to help you align your company around a single  strategic vision.

 BHAG Examples - Classic Big Hairy Audacious Goal Examples

Here are the 4 Categories of BHAGs that Collins and Porras outline in Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies along with a couple of examples of each type.  A good BHAG can be used as a powerful mechanism to create a sense of urgency and a goal to rally around that goes far beyond your traditional stretch goal.

Classic BHAG Examples

1. Target-Oriented BHAG:

This is the type of Big Hairy Audacious Goal we see most commonly with our clients. You can set quantitative (numerical) targets or qualitative targets that are a bit more subjective. Be aware of pitfalls with this type of BHAG. If you are setting a revenue target, be certain that it is one that thrills and excites your team. Collins and Porras wrote that "The envisioned future should be so exciting in its own right that it would continue to keep the organization motivated even if the leaders who set the goal disappeared." Would a revenue target really do this for your team? With qualitative targets, make sure that you have a tangible measurement in place so that you know when you've achieved your goal. Like NASA's BHAG to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth, you and your employees need to be able to recognize when you've accomplished the BHAG. Here are a few examples of Target-Oriented BHAGs which work best with visionary companies:

Walmart Logo.png
  • Become a $125 billion company by year 2000. (Wal-Mart, 1990)
  • Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age. (Boeing, 1950)

2. Competitive BHAG:

These are what Collins and Porras call "Common-Enemy" Big Hairy Audacious Goals or BHAGs. Think of this as the BHAG that brings your team together to beat a large competitor in your industry. This David vs. Goliath mentality can be very motivating (everyone loves an underdog, right?). This type of BHAG might be especially applicable if you are in an industry or a niche with a clear leader whose customers you are after. Here are some examples of what this might look like:

  • Crush Adidas. (Nike, 1960s)
  •  Yamaha wo tsubusu! We will destroy Yamaha! (Honda, 1970s) 

3. Role Model BHAG: 

This category of BHAG is great for up-and-coming organizations that aspire to be like the great companies in their specific niche. Instead of thinking of companies that you are in direct competition with (like in the Competitive Big Hairy Audacious Goal), think about companies that are known to be great in the same ways that you want your company to be great. Here are some examples:

  • Become as respected in 20 years as Hewlett-Packard is today. (Watkins-Johnson, 1996)

4. Internal Transformation BHAG:

Collins and Porras point out that this last category is best for larger, more established companies (think GE, Apple, etc.) This category can be for a division within a very large company seeking to change the way it functions within that organization, or for the whole company as a mechanism to stimulate progress/ Here are a few examples:

  • Transform this company from a defense contractor into the best diversified high-technology company in the world. (Rockwell, 1995)
  • Transform this company from a chemical manufacturer into one of the preeminent drug-making companies in the world. (Merck, 1930s)

I hope these examples and categories help get your creative juices flowing as you work on your own true BHAG. Don't forget to review your Big Hairy Audacious Goal at every Annual Planning session and monitor your progress in your quarterly planning session. If you haven't reviewed it with your team recently, you should add it to your weekly meeting agenda. The long term goal that you describe in your BHAG must center around your hedgehog concept, that which you can become the best in the world at and is aligned with your core values and mission statement.

Download 3-5 Year  Strategic Plan Template

If you aren't sure where to start, try downloading the BHAG template below and let us know how it goes!  Remember, you don't need to have a moon mission in store in order to create an audacious goal, just something big enough that you're not sure exactly how you'll get there.  If you can see how to get there, the goal isn't bold enough. Here at Rhythm Systems, we are always looking for patterns and better ways to help our clients work on their strategy, so if you have an example to add to the list above we’d love to hear it!

Rhythm Systems helps mid-market companies accelerate growth through their suite of strategy & execution software products.

 Free Guide:  3 Steps to Create Your BHAG

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

How To Create Your BHAG: 3 Steps to Discovering, Creating and Putting Your BHAG to Work

What Drives Your Financial Engine? Profit/X Examples

Do You Have a Personal BHAG?

Does Your Company's BHAG Connect to Your Hedgehog?

Why Having a BHAG Matters

How to Reach Your BHAG (Infographic)

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Sep. 9, 2013, and has been updated.

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