Why BHAG Posters Don’t Work & 4 Ways to Make Yours Work!
I walked into the client’s conference room and noticed their BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) poster. I was impressive! It communicated their purpose, long term mission and vision in a very succinct way. After my client joined me in their conference room, I complimented their BHAG poster and asked how it had inspired their employees so far. To my astonishment, my client said, “Oh, its just a beautiful poster. It looks great, but we don’t really talk about it regarding our work or projects.” That happened twenty-four years ago, while I was working in Oracle Corporation’s consulting group. I made a silent note to myself “BHAG posters don’t work."
BHAG posters don’t work. Well, at least for that Fortune 500 company anyway. But this does not mean that all BHAG posters don’t work.
If you already have your BHAG on a poster hanging on the walls at your company, that’s a great start. Now let’s make sure that your BHAG poster is working for you instead of just being a beautiful piece of art on the wall. Here are 4 ways to make sure that your BHAG poster does work for you!
Just because you have your BHAG on the wall does not mean that everyone will understand it. You probably thought about it long and hard hundreds of times in your mind before you committed to this BHAG. It is probably crystal clear in your mind. Now you have to share it and share it repeatedly. I have met so many senior executives who are surprised that their associates do not know their BHAG, even though they have already shared it. How many times do you need to share it? Many times. Consider reminding your teams what the company’s purpose and BHAG is at the start of all your company meetings. After all, it is your long term goal, and a very important part of your vision. So why not re-share or communicate it at the start of every company meeting?
Be excited about it.
Your BHAG should be about doing stuff that you and your team is great at. Jim Collins (Author of Good To Great and the creator of the term BHAG) teaches that your BHAG should be based on what you have the potential to be best in the world at. If your BHAG is going to help you to hone a competence or area of skill in your company to become the best in the world at it, it should be very exciting. Educate people how your BHAG helps the company improve over time to become the very best at something. You are going to be so great at this competence that your competitors won’t be able to touch you! Get excited!
Connect it to the work.
Many companies forget to or do not know how to connect their BHAG to the daily work. This is crucial to making your BHAG work for you. Your growth strategies (I call them Winning Moves in my book - Rhythm) should help you achieve your BHAG faster. Your projects should help drive your company towards your BHAG.
Use it to make Yes/No decisions.
You should be able to use your BHAG to help you make yes/no decisions. When faced with many opportunities yet limited by time and resources, think about which opportunities take you closer to your BHAG and which ones take you further away. Then say “yes” to the opportunities that take you closer to your BHAG and “no” to the others. Using your BHAG in this practical fashion connects it to the daily work and makes it real.
If you are practicing these four points, then your BHAG is working for you. Now that your BHAG works for you, having it on a beautiful poster is a great idea. Posters don’t make decisions, people do. Posters work well then they are there to remind and inspire us about something that we already live and believe in. BHAG posters don’t give you any value if you do not use your BHAG in practical and strategic ways that drive decisions.
The main takeaway here is to get your BHAG to work for your company, then put it on a poster to remind and inspire. What can you do today to make your BHAG come alive in your company?