BHAG’s – Big Hairy Audacious Goals – are a term you hear frequently in the business world. Some leave the “hairy” off and just refer to BAG’s, but I like leaving the hair in. Maybe it’s a jealousy thing. In any case, a BHAG is a 5 to 10-year stretch goal that should light people up and fill in what is missing within the organization. BHAG’s are unreasonable, yet still possible; Collins and Porras say that a BHAG should have a 70 percent chance of fulfillment. I have seen value for organizations in simply rolling around in this BHAG territory. It allows a leadership team creative freedom to put some positive, bold goals in front of the organization.
To begin the BHAG process, sit around in loincloths and smoke a peace pipe with some very special tobacco. As the smoke wafts to the top of the corporate wigwam, imagine what the company could produce and become. Okay.…in reality sit in your business-casual uniform in a generic conference room at the company or some other meeting place and imagine what the company could produce and become.
The first part of creating BHAG’s for your business is to ask the leadership group to brainstorm worthwhile goals for the organization. These goals should, by their very nature, require employees to demonstrate the organization’s reason for being and values. (See? It is all coming together.)
An example of this is my plastics manufacturing client. The company’s BHAG was to prove that its model of manufacturing could thrive in the United States. Achieving this BHAG required the organization to live out of its values of passion and improvement and necessitated the organization to fulfill two other BHAG’s: 1. Grow the company to $50 million and 2. Fully integrate five unique and useful technologies. This company just had its most profitable year. It was also recognized as the leading manufacturer in its state. This company is on track to reach the $50 million mark within three years.
Back to the process; to create BHAG’s, follow a similar process to the one for creating the Reason for Being. Record the team’s ideas on flip charts; post the charts and discuss. Then, divide into two groups to share and synthesize the suggestions. Ideally, get a facilitator involved, such as yours truly, and work with the group until there are between one and four BHAG’s. Finally, designate a group and leader to wordsmith and fine-tune the BHAG’s by a target deadline.
As a personal example of a BHAG, I aimed to write a book within two years. When I first articulated this goal in 2009, it seemed impossible; I almost flunked out of college because I could not write papers. Writing my Master’s thesis nearly ended my marriage and almost killed me. At first, I kept my BHAG a secret, only mumbling and muttering about it in private. I discussed it only with my writing group. However, I felt that striving towards my BHAG — whether I achieved it or not — would be beneficial. At the very least I would have been writing for my blog, newsletter, and articles. I would be forced to improve my writing and take the next steps in developing as a consultant. In retrospect, my BHAG sent my life on a completely different trajectory. In the end, I did publish my book. Now I think of myself as an author, and so do others.