BHAG: The Acronym I Wish I’d Truly Understood
Why Your Goals Should Be Ambitious: As a CEO of multiple companies, four of which were acquired, I have extensive experience in helping lead organizations to success. But after I traded my old role as CEO for my new one as a business coach and mentor, I remained in acquisition mode, learning all I could about where and how the business world was progressing.
Specifically, I’ve discovered many useful strategies I wish I would have known the meaning of as an executive, and one of the most crucial of those is the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.”
What is the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal?”
In his book Good to Great, business consultant and author Jim Collins identified that great companies frequently developed and pursued a goal so challenging that employees regularly questioned how they would accomplish it. But instead of crippling productivity, this challenge inspired people to figure it out successfully, which only drove the company to greater heights.
He coined this concept as the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.”
A great “BHAG” should serve as a “North Star” for you and your team. It should:
- Drive the business forward in the day-to-day and long-term.
- Provide the fulcrum around which all other decisions will revolve
- Help everyone make the critical decisions that drive strategy.
- Challenges employees to look beyond the everyday trials that can consume tremendous amounts of emotional energy, keeping them focused on the big picture.
Crafting Your Goal
As the name implies, the BHAG is both long-term and lofty. When crafting your BHAG, it should compel your organization to stretch out further toward greatness. According to Collins, any company can go from “Good to Great” if it can actualize the intersection of these three elements:
- Your company’s “Core Purpose” – What is your reason for being beyond revenue and profit? What is your passion? Why does your company exist, and why should your customers care?
- Your company’s “Core Promise” – What can you be the best in the world at? Think figuratively – not the physical world, but your What does your brand guarantee to your core customer?
- Your company’s “Core Product” – What fuels your economic engine? What is your “Profit per X,” as we refer to it?
The overlap between those essentials is the sweet spot of any great BHAG. More importantly, the BHAG process is not about sloganeering or wordsmithing. It’s about goal-setting. It’s not about writing the perfect “mission statement” – it’s about going on a mission! And this means that a good BHAG should take anywhere from weeks to months to develop.
Envision Your Achievement
A true BHAG is a goal at least 10 years into the future. It should catalyze change in your company and encourage your employees to make a resolute commitment to seeing it accomplished.
It will be clear and compelling, serving as unifying focal point of effort that sparks team spirit. And since people like to shoot for finish lines, your BHAG should clearly let your people know when the goal has been reached.
In short, businesses too frequently overestimate what they can do in 3 months and underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years, leaving them stuck in a cycle of change that never achieves anything worthwhile. This is why I encourage you and your business to create your own BHAG.
To begin your journey toward your own Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, I would recommend reading Jim Collins’ famous HBR article entitled “Building Your Company’s Vision.” In the article Jim outlines four types of BHAGs and gives a multitude of insightful examples that should spur your own imagination. I would also encourage you to visit Jim’s website for a host of related resources. I
Give you and your team a worthy goal for the next decade! Find your BHAG!
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