The term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ was proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.
You may prefer to use the term True North or BAG (Big Audacious Goal). Regardless of the term, it is important to know that envisioning a long term compelling goal is an essential ingredient of making an impact in the world. When you are asked to define your BHAG are you really setting a big enough goal?
We’ve all heard about the trick of making a goal list. You have to have a target, an idea of what you want to achieve. But a BHAG should not be on your every day “to do” list. It should be exactly what the acronym says.
Big- big enough that you are not sure if or how it can be accomplished. We’re not talking about putting an easy goal up just so you can cross it off your list. We are talking about BIG.
Hairy- this adjective is tough to define. The chosen goal should not be simple. Achieving it will most likely require multiple steps, complicated paths and have lots of possible pitfalls and obstacles that need to be overcome to achieve it.
Audacious- this is a 10-30 years goal to guide progress toward a compelling future. When you state this goal to others they think “really? That much? Who does he think he is? Wow that’s a tough one.”
Goal- make sure you are talking about a true target. It should be well defined and measurable. You will know when you reach it.
“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.
Examples of BHAGs include:
Microsoft – a computer on every desk and in every home
Ford – democratize the automobile
SolarAid – to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020
In addition to identifying your BHAG, you will need to develop specific stepping stones towards it in the form of a three year plan, one year detailed operational plan with clear initiatives and metrics and a quarterly goals and objectives including clear accountabilities. While executing your plan, the BHAG acts as a magnet pulling you and your organization towards it on your journey to scaling up your business.
While many executive teams develop inspiring, motivating and well thought out strategic plans, most companies tragically fail to get near the results stated in their plans. Instead of coming alive in the hallways and cubicles of the organization, the plan too often sits on a shelf or on a far corner of a desk forgotten and collecting dust.
It doesn’t have to be this way for your company. By implementing the proven strategic planning and execution methodology of the Four Decisions (People, Strategy, Execution and Cash), you will be able to develop a solid strategic plan and more importantly bridge the gap between strategy and results.
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