Lately, I have had a quite a few clients ask me to help them work on their BHAG. BHAG is a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book titled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. The acronym stands for big hairy audacious goal. The idea behind a BHAG is to develop a visionary goal that is strategic and emotionally compelling that helps align your team to work toward a long-term 10 to 30 year goal.
The BHAG should be a true stretch goal, one that you are not sure how to achieve, but not so far out that it sounds impossible to achieve. It should be clear, concise, and measurable so that you and the team know when you have achieved it. A BHAG is not to be confused with Core Purpose, which describes why the company exists and should last a hundred years or more. The critical point Collins and Porras make is to preserve the core while stimulating progress towards longer term visionary goals. A company may have more than one BHAG or different BHAGs for different business units, but there should be one unifying long-term visionary BHAG that the whole company can rally around. The key is that it should reach out and grab people in the gut, be focused and be clear right away what the end goal is.
Here are some questions to put your BHAG to the test:
1. Does it stimulate forward progress?
2. Does it get people going?
3. Does it get people’s juices flowing?
4. Do they find it stimulating, exciting, and adventurous?
5. Are they willing to throw their creative talents and human energies into it?
6. Does it fit with your core ideology?
7. Is it clear, compelling and easy to grasp?
8. Does it connect to your core purpose?
9. Does it connect to a broad base of people in the organization?
10. Do you have a 50-70% chance of achieving it?
Here are some good examples of notable BHAGs:
- Amazon: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.
- Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally useable and accessible.
- Starbucks: The number one consumer brand on the planet.
A few pitfalls to avoid when creating your BHAG are:
Exclusively Financially Oriented ($1B in sales)
- Doesn’t guide business decisions
- What would you say NO to because of it?
Not Connected to the Heart!
- Must connect emotionally
- Must ignite Passion
- Make it simple to understand
- Make it measurable
"A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines."
—Collins and Porras, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
So look at your BHAG, put it to the test, and good luck on your journey to achieve it. Let me know your thoughts and good luck. Alan
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