BHAG Examples for Setting your Big Hairy Audacious Goals

By Jessica Wishart

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dateMon, Feb 20, 2023 @ 12:00 PM

I recently re-read the classic HBR article "Building Your Company's Vision" by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. Their great examples illustrate different types of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs). If you ask yourself, "What is a BHAG?" or struggle 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 work 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, 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

Target Oriented BHAG Example

This is the type of Big Hairy Audacious Goal we commonly see with our clients. You can set quantitative (numerical) or qualitative targets that are more subjective. Be aware of pitfalls with this type of BHAG. If you are setting a revenue target, be sure that it thrills and excites your team. Collins and Porras wrote, "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, ensure you have a tangible measurement in place to 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 must recognize when you've accomplished the BHAG. Here are a few examples of Target-Oriented BHAGs which work best with visionary companies:

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  • 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)

Competitive BHAG Example

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) 

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

BHAG Examples Video YouTube


Role Model BHAG Example: 

This category of BHAG is excellent for up-and-coming organizations that aspire to be like great companies in their specific niche or industry. 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)

Internal Transformation BHAG Example

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 flow your creative juices 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 a free BHAG guide to help you align your company around a single  strategic vision.

Modern BHAG Examples

Facebook BHAG Example

To become the hub of digital engagement. In 2008, Mark Zuckerberg set the ambitious goal of reaching 1 billion active users globally by 2012. By utilizing innovative technology and targeted marketing strategies, Facebook successfully achieved this goal two years ahead of schedule. This has enabled them to continue to expand with even more advanced product features and attract billions more users worldwide, contributing to unwavering brand loyalty amongst customers.

SpaceX BHAG Example

To make human life multi-planetary by sending people to Mars. In 2017, Elon Musk voiced his commitment to send humans to Mars shortly, with plans for launching a sample 6 passengers – 2 crew and 4 scientists – on a mission as early as 2024. Through developing new technologies, including reusable rockets, improvements in astronaut safety protocols, and engine designs for long-haul travel, SpaceX is working towards accomplishing its lofty goal as a leader in space exploration efforts.

Apple BHAG Example

To bring technology closer to humanity and enhance individual lives by providing consumers with easier access to technology that furthers their ability to create whatever they can imagine or dream up. With this purpose in mind, Apple has worked relentlessly towards revolutionizing user experience with products such as the iPhone, which have changed the way people use mobile phones today; powerful MacBook laptops, which allow professionals greater mobility; and desktop computer systems such as iMacs helping streamline tasks quicker than ever before while connecting devices at home or work seamlessly via iCloud services.

Google BHAG Example

To bring digital information closer to humanity through organizing world information using algorithms so that it can be used universally with ease regardless of language barriers or technical knowledge barriers. The company continues its mission into the present day, striving towards further developing artificial intelligence capabilities in its products with incredible progressions being made for voice recognition search capabilities through Google Assistant and machine learning approaches for sorting infinite amounts of data faster than manual research can quantify it accurately; all make it a prime candidate for CEOs seeking examples from industry titans leading innovation today.

Microsoft BHAG Example

To empower people and businesses to achieve more through technology. Microsoft has consistently pushed the envelope of innovation, from the release of Windows 95 in 1995 to its current efforts in developing the latest version of its flagship Windows operating system. As part of its commitment to providing users with greater access to technology, Microsoft has established a variety of initiatives to make sure that people from all walks of life can take advantage of the benefits that technology has to offer, from its YouthSpark program which provides resources and support for young people at risk of being left behind in the digital world, to its ongoing efforts to engage with the public sector to help create solutions for our cities' problems.

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 a moon mission in store 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 strategies, so if you have an example to add to the list above, we’d love to hear it! How to create a corporate BHAG in 2023.

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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Jessica Wishart


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images