big hairy audacious goal

What is a BHAG? What to do and NOT to do when making a big hairy audacious goal.


What is a BHAG?

A BHAG is a big hairy audacious goal. A BHAG is defined as a long-term goal that you go after with immense passion. It is the type of vision or strategic goal you set with each of your teams to motivate them towards a compelling future. Unlike company targets, which tend to be uninspiring, BHAGs (pronounced bee-hag) are intended to get people energized and create momentum.

How to make a BHAG?

Get Clear On Your Vision

If you want to make a BHAG, you need to start by getting clear on your vision. First, step outside of your usual mode of goal setting and make sure that you set the proper, forward looking tone. If your BHAG doesn’t set a proper tone, there will be a lot of disappointment and missed opportunity. If there is already a compelling mission statement for the great things the company does, they some of this work is likely already done.

Brainstorm A LOT of BHAGs

Involve the team in brainstorming a series of objectives (don’t pick one yet) that gets them excited to wake up in the morning. Have everyone write a few ideas down before the discussion even starts so that you have an unbiased discussion about the potential BHAGs. Otherwise, you might end up only hearing the BHAG that the loudest person in the room wants to work on.

Pick 2-3 and Test Your BHAG

(Below questions credited to Jim Collins, original creator of the BHAG,

Once you have settled on 2-3 ideas from your brainstorming session, run through these questions. If you and your team answer yes to some or all of these questions, then you’ve selected a good BHAG.

1. Do you find this BHAG exciting?

2. Is the BHAG clear, compelling, and easy to grasp?

3. Does this BHAG somehow connect to the core purpose?

4. Will this BHAG be exciting to a broad base of people in the organization, not just those with executive responsibility?

5. It is undeniably a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, not a verbose, hard to understand, convoluted, impossible to remember mission or vision “Statement”? In other words, does it pass the “Mount Everest Standard”?

6. Do you believe the organization has less than 100% chance of achieving the BHAG (50% to 70% chance is ideal) yet at the same time believe the organization can achieve the BHAG if fully committed?

7. Will achieving the BHAG require a quantum step in the capabilities and characteristics of the organization?

8. In 25 years, would you be able to tell if you have achieved the BHAG?

Put Your BHAG Into Practice

The best way to get started is to start. The key is to know that achieving your goals takes time, commitment and persistence — and you can do this by recalling and talking about your BHAG. Use this BHAG as a rallying cry to attack big challenges with more force in the future. Talk about it during strategy meetings, mention it around the water cooler, make a funny video about it. Make sure that it stays front of mind so that everyone knows what they’re working for.

What NOT to do when making a BHAG?

Don’t Try To Change Your Company Vision At the Same Time

Too much change can be upsetting for a company when not handled with care. If you’re creating a BHAG, make sure it builds on the strengths of the company and the existing vision you have. Consider asking what you can learn from the existing personnel, business model, operation and space that could inform your BHAG.

Don’t Aim Low

The point of a brief BHAG is that it is a BIG goal. Your target should be something truly impressive that you can only achieve if you take massive risks and have the ability to really make waves in the industry.

Don’t Quit If It Doesn’t Get Achieved Immediately

It doesn’t matter what the BHAG is — any time you struggle to meet your goals, it will feel difficult. The key is not to quit. You’ll see more results when you aim high with your vision and continue to work to achieve your goals.

Let us know what you come up with and how it goes. Happy BHAG ing!

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