By Robbert van Os
Posted on 2023-03-27T00:00:00.000Z

How to Set, Pursue, and Achieve Your BHAG

Unlock the power of BHAGs to drive growth & innovation, and learn how to craft goals that align with your organization's values and objectives.

In a previous article, we introduced the concept of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) and how they differ from a corporate vision. While understanding the concept is important, it is equally important to know how to create a BHAG that is actionable and achievable.

In essence, the core values and mission preserve the purpose while BHAG's stimulate progress. Creating a BHAG can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can be a powerful tool for driving growth and innovation. Our step-by-step guide will break down the process into manageable chunks, making it easy for you to create a BHAG that aligns with your organization's values and strategic objectives. By following our guide, you will be able to create a BHAG that is both ambitious and achievable, and that will help you take your organization to the next level.

Writing a BHAG

  • It should be big but simple and understandable
  • There is no 'right' or 'wrong' goal. It focuses on results vs. activity
  • Highly focused, energizing, and tangible
  • "Something to shoot for" --- stimulate progress
  • Challenges excite the people of the organization because outsiders deem it foolish.
  • Make it something that people can remember from day to day
  • They don't require consultants, training, management retreats, or costly new technology.
  • You can decide what your BHAG ought to be by talking over company goals with everyone.

Your ability to THINK BIG AND ACT ON IT is the only way to CHANGE THE WORLD!

Practical Strategies for Implementing BHAGs

A BHAG is a challenging and ambitious target, typically spanning 10-15 years, that propels an organization towards greatness. Comparable to climbing Mount Everest, a BHAG is an enormous and seemingly insurmountable task that may initially leave employees questioning how it can be achieved. This element of uncertainty is crucial, as it refers to as the "gulp factor," inducing an adrenaline rush when employees first hear the goal.

The gulp factor generates a sense of wonder and pushes employees to break free from the status quo, much like the energy released when stretching a rubber band. Embracing the unknown and committing to a goal without a clear path to success fosters a culture of innovation, as necessity often drives invention.

Moreover, an effective BHAG inspires employees by painting a vivid picture of the future they can create together through collaboration and individual excellence. When paired with a noble core purpose, a BHAG emboldens employees to embark on a mission to achieve.

Creation of your BHAG is broken into three parts:

  1. Self-Discovery - Uncovering Your Organization's Core Competency - Basic fundamentals you must understand before you start working on your BHAG
  2. Proceeding Forward: Guidelines for Crafting an Outstanding BHAG - Practical tips and tests to consider as you determine your BHAG
  3. Progress with Intent: Implementing Your BHAG for Meaningful Growth - Advice for using your BHAG to connect execution with strategy at every level of the organization

When embarking on the journey of defining a compelling BHAG for your organization, it's crucial to recognize that this process is an ongoing collaborative effort rather than a one-time event. To ensure that your BHAG is truly inspiring and long-lasting, consider adopting the following strategies:

  1. Establish a productive THINK Rhythm: Allocate time for regular brainstorming sessions with your team, encouraging open dialogue, and fostering a collaborative environment where diverse perspectives can be shared and explored.

  2. Reflect on your ideas: Allow yourself and your team to contemplate initial concepts, and be open to revisiting and refining them as needed. Acknowledge that your first, second, or even third ideas may not be the final iteration, and be willing to adapt and evolve throughout the process.

  3. Test assumptions: Rigorously assess the underlying premises of your potential BHAG and consider potential challenges or obstacles that may arise. This will help ensure that your goal is both realistic and achievable, while still pushing your organization to strive for greatness.

  4. Gather feedback: Seek input from various stakeholders within your organization, including employees at different levels and departments. This will not only help to ensure that your BHAG resonates with your entire team but will also provide valuable insights that can inform and improve the final outcome.

  5. Invest time and energy: Recognize that crafting a powerful and enduring BHAG requires dedication and commitment. Be prepared to invest the necessary time and resources to create a goal that will truly inspire your organization and guide its strategic direction for years to come.

Self-Discovery - Uncovering Your Organization's Core Competency

Your BHAG is a crucial guiding force for your organization as it navigates the future. To ensure its effectiveness, your BHAG must be rooted in and supported by your business's core principles. This requires a thorough understanding of your organization's Hedgehog Concept.

The Hedgehog Concept originates from Isaiah Berlin's celebrated essay, "The Hedgehog and the Fox." The narrative contrasts the cunning fox, who knows many things and perceives the world's complexity, with the hedgehog, who excels in one big thing and simplifies the world through a unifying principle.

In the business context, fox-like companies chase multiple opportunities, trying to excel in various areas to capitalize on emerging prospects. As a result, they spread themselves thin and never truly excel in any particular field. Hedgehog companies, conversely, possess razor-sharp focus, understanding their strengths and leveraging them for success. They simplify the complex world with a central organizing idea, assessing opportunities based on their unique success formula.

To uncover your organization's Hedgehog Concept, consider the following three fundamental questions:

  1. What can your organization be the best at in the world? Reflect on your potential to excel in a specific area if you concentrate your resources and efforts. Honesty is crucial, as it's essential to recognize not only your capabilities but also your limitations.

  2. What drives your economic engine? This strategic question entails identifying the key factor that generates the most revenue for your business.

  3. What are you deeply passionate about? A great company requires a fully committed and engaged workforce. This involves connecting employees' hearts and minds with their work. The goal is not to make people passionate about their work but to choose work that naturally evokes passion in your employees.

Proceeding Forward: Guidelines for Crafting an Outstanding BHAG

With a comprehensive understanding of your organization's fundamentals and Hedgehog Concept, you are now prepared to develop your BHAG. An effective BHAG should be easy to comprehend, serve as a unifying focal point for team efforts, and inform daily decision-making. Ensure that your BHAG aligns with your company's passion, best-at domain, and profit per X. Your goal should be clear, compelling, engaging, inspiring, and measurable.

The purpose of formulating a visionary BHAG is to envision a prosperous future for your organization. Start by discussing your company's aspirations:

  • What would you like to achieve?
  • What does the ultimate picture of success look like?
  • Describe your organization's appearance when operating at a level that realizes this success.

Consider the benefits for your customers, employees, and shareholders, and create a mental image for you and your team.

After reaching a consensus on the vision, begin brainstorming your BHAG. Identify a clear, compelling, and measurable goal that will signify the realization of this vision. Generate a list of potential ideas, perhaps combining several into a single success indicator. Evaluate which concepts best capture the vision's essence, narrowing your list down to two or three potential BHAGs.

At this juncture, ensure that the remaining potential BHAGs align with the envisioned future. This simple test confirms that the executive team shares the same vision. While it may take additional time and effort to finalize the statement or measurement, alignment at this stage is crucial.

Once you achieve alignment and have refined your BHAG ideas to a select few, evaluate these ideas using the following questions. A great BHAG should allow you to answer "Yes" to all of these questions:

  1. Is the BHAG aligned with your organization's Hedgehog Concept?
  2. Is it clear and easy to understand?
  3. Does it serve as a unifying focal point for team efforts?
  4. 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?
  5. Is it compelling, engaging, and inspiring for your team?
  6. Can the BHAG be measured and tracked over time? E.g. in 25 years?
  7. Will this BHAG be exciting to a broad base of people in the organization not just those with executive responsibility?

Framework and Reference Questions

One way to validate your BHAG is actionable is to use a framework and reference questions. The framework should include the following:

  • Clarity: Is the BHAG clear and easy to understand?
  • Alignment: Does the BHAG align with the organization's mission and values?
  • Measurability: Can progress towards the BHAG be measured?
  • Attainability: Is the BHAG achievable within a reasonable timeframe?
  • Relevance: Is the BHAG relevant to the organization's long-term success?
  • Reference questions can be used to validate the BHAG's feasibility and relevance.

Overall, selecting the right BHAG is a critical step towards achieving long-term success for any organization.

Creating an Action Plan for Your BHAG

Now that you have identified your BHAG, it's time to create an action plan to make it a reality. This step is crucial, as it will help you break down your BHAG into smaller, manageable goals and tasks that you can work towards on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Use a framework such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to ensure that your goals and tasks are actionable and aligned with your BHAG. Reference your BHAG frequently to ensure that you are staying on track and making progress towards your ultimate goal.

Remember, creating an action plan is just the first step towards achieving your BHAG. It's up to you to stay focused, motivated, and committed to your goals, and to adjust your plan as necessary along the way.

Overcoming Challenges and Staying Committed to Your BHAG

Creating a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is a challenging task that requires a lot of commitment and perseverance. Once you have set your BHAG, you need to stay focused on it and overcome any challenges that come your way. Here are some tips on how to stay committed to your BHAG:

  • Break down your BHAG into smaller, actionable goals: One of the biggest challenges of pursuing a BHAG is the overwhelming feeling of the task at hand. To overcome this, break down your BHAG into smaller, actionable goals that can be achieved in shorter time periods. This will help you stay motivated and focused on the bigger picture.
  • Stay accountable: Share your BHAG with others and ask them to hold you accountable for achieving it. This will help you stay committed and motivated, as you will have someone to answer to if you don't make progress towards your goal.
  • Track your progress: Keep track of your progress towards your BHAG by setting milestones and tracking your progress towards them. This will help you stay motivated and focused, as you will be able to see the progress you are making towards your goal.
  • Stay flexible: It's important to stay flexible and be willing to adjust your approach if things aren't working out. Don't be afraid to try new things and experiment with different strategies to achieve your BHAG.
  • Stay positive: Finally, it's important to stay positive and believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your BHAG. Surround yourself with positive people who support your goals and aspirations, and don't let negative thoughts or setbacks derail your progress.

Measuring and Celebrating Your BHAG Success

Once you have set your BHAG and started working towards it, it is important to measure your progress and celebrate your successes along the way. Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Set milestones: Break down your BHAG into smaller, achievable goals or milestones. This will make it easier to track your progress and stay motivated.
  • Use metrics: Identify metrics that you will use to measure your progress towards your BHAG. These could be financial metrics, customer metrics, or any other relevant metrics for your specific goal.
  • Track progress: Regularly track your progress towards your milestones and BHAG using the metrics you identified. This will help you identify any areas where you may need to adjust your strategy or tactics.
  • Celebrate successes: When you reach a milestone or make progress towards your BHAG, take time to celebrate your success. This will help you stay motivated and energized to continue working towards your goal.

Breaking down a substantial goal into manageable portions may prove difficult; we plan to provide a dedicated article on this topic in the future to assist with the process.