What’s Your BHAG? How to Create a Big Hairy Audacious Goal

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Big Hairy Audacious Goal
BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, an idea conceptualized in the book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James Collins and Jerry Porras. According to Collins and Porras, a BHAG is a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business’ existence. BHAGs are meant to shift how we do business, the way we are perceived in the industry and possibly even the industry itself. Collins and Porras describe BHAGs on a corporate level as nearly impossible to achieve without consistently working outside of a comfort zone and displaying corporate commitment, confidence and even a bit of arrogance. BHAGs are bigger, bolder and more powerful than regular long- and short-term goals. They typically take a 10- to 30-year commitment, but they are exciting, tangible and something everyone just “gets” without any further explanation.

Are BHAGs Applicable to Entrepreneurs?

We all know that goals are vital for everyone, but is it possible to create a BHAG on an entrepreneurial level? Absolutely. The driving element of a BHAG is willingness to completely change your mindset and commit to doing something differently from the way you have been doing it. If you can envision the big picture and are ready to take a bold and life-changing step, then it’s time to develop a BHAG.

How to Create a BHAG

1. Conceptualize It The first step is taking the time to think through and conceptualize a goal you can aim toward that will change your business and/or your life. Let go of constraints and let your imagination take charge; your BHAG should be overly ambitious and seem unattainable. Here are the other criteria of a BHAG to keep in mind:
  • Minimum of a 10-year plan
  • Action-oriented
  • Innovative
  • Compelling and exciting
This is probably the most difficult part of creating a BHAG. It can take a long time (weeks, months, even years) to identify a goal that is important enough to you to qualify it as a BHAG. 2. Test It
Now that you have your BHAG in mind, run it through a feasibility check to gauge if it’s a BHAG and really one that you can dedicate the next decade to achieving. Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:
  • Is it long-term?
  • Is it something people will understand if you share it?
  • Will it require you to stretch yourself out of your comfort zone?
  • Is it measurable and life changing?
  • Does it create momentum?
  • Does it excite and stimulate you?
3. Commit to It Just like you do with any goal, you will need to commit to your BHAG and start forward progress immediately. You can break it down into smaller, measurable chunks, or mini-goals. And make sure you check-in on your progress regularly (I suggest monthly) to dedicate productive focus to your BHAG. Sure, 10 years seems like an awfully long time. But if you have created a powerful BHAG, a decade is probably an aggressive timeline. Personally, I kind of like the long timeframe. Think about how busy you are now. Having a goal that you don’t anticipate achieving until way in the future gives you time to create a solid plan and approach it methodically. And you’ll need that time if your BHAG is truly one of the “unattainable.” For more information: Do you have a BHAG? Why did you decide to go for it? Did you attain it? Image credit: Glenn Pebley

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

What is the significance of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) in business strategy?

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is a long-term, 10 to 25-year goal, guided by a company’s core values and purpose. The BHAG is meant to stimulate progress and act as a focal point for a company’s strategic actions. It is a powerful mechanism to stimulate progress because it acts as a unifying focal point of effort, often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal.

How does a BHAG differ from regular business goals?

Unlike regular business goals, a BHAG is not just a target but a visionary concept that is intended to drive the company towards a grand, audacious future. It is designed to be challenging and emotionally compelling, and it often requires a company to stretch beyond its comfort zone to achieve it. Regular business goals, on the other hand, are typically shorter-term, more tactical objectives that are easier to achieve.

How can a company identify its BHAG?

Identifying a BHAG requires deep thought, understanding of the company’s core ideology, and a clear vision of its future. It should be a goal that aligns with the company’s purpose, stimulates progress, and is exciting and challenging to the team. It should be so clear and compelling that it requires little or no explanation.

What are some examples of successful BHAGs?

Some of the most successful BHAGs in history include Microsoft’s goal to have “a computer on every desk and in every home,” and Google’s mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” These BHAGs were not only audacious and challenging, but they also aligned perfectly with the companies’ core ideologies and visions for the future.

Can a BHAG change over time?

Yes, a BHAG can change over time as the company evolves and its vision for the future changes. However, it should not be a moving target that changes frequently. A good BHAG is designed to last for a long time, typically 10 to 25 years.

How does a BHAG contribute to a company’s growth?

A BHAG acts as a north star for a company, guiding all its strategic decisions and actions. It provides a clear and compelling vision of the future that motivates and inspires the team to work harder and smarter. It also helps to align the efforts of everyone in the organization, which can lead to increased efficiency and productivity.

What are the risks of setting a BHAG?

While a BHAG can be a powerful tool for driving progress and growth, it also comes with risks. If the goal is too audacious, it may demotivate the team or lead to unrealistic expectations. It’s also possible that the company may become so focused on achieving its BHAG that it neglects other important aspects of its business.

How can a company mitigate the risks of setting a BHAG?

To mitigate the risks of setting a BHAG, a company should ensure that the goal is challenging but achievable, and that it aligns with the company’s core ideology and strategic direction. The company should also maintain a balanced focus on all aspects of its business, not just the BHAG.

How can a company measure progress towards its BHAG?

Progress towards a BHAG can be measured using key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the goal. These KPIs should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they accurately reflect the company’s progress.

What happens when a company achieves its BHAG?

Achieving a BHAG is a significant milestone that should be celebrated. It’s also an opportunity for the company to reassess its vision and set a new BHAG for the future. The process of setting and achieving BHAGs can help to drive continuous improvement and growth.

Alyssa GregoryAlyssa Gregory
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Alyssa Gregory is a digital and content marketer, small business consultant, and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire — a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

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