The term BHAG was first proposed by J Collins and J Porras in a 1996 article, Building your Company’s Vision, and later used as part of their book, Built to Last. BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal and is a tool used to help businesses create a long-term vision which is both visionary and emotionally compelling.
A BHAG is not the same as a company’s usual short-term goals, nor is it similar to a company’s long-term goals, a BHAG is MUCH BIGGER! If a typical organizational goal was to increase sales revenue by 25% then a BHAG might be to revolutionize the industry and change the world for the better!
BHAGs must be exciting, instantly understandable, and energizing. It takes years of having smaller goals achieved before a BHAG will be reached. Here are some qualities of a good BHAG:
- It’s should get peoples juices going and get them emotional. If it doesn’t do this then it isn’t a BHAG.
- It should not be obvious how to achieve a BHAG – it should be nowhere near to your comfort zone. Yes, a BHAG is exciting but it should also appear that it’s going to take a herculean effort to achieve. BHAGs cannot be achieved with incremental change.
- Unlike traditional long-term organizational goals which are set in a 5 year or less time frame, BHAGs are truly long-term being defined in timeframes of 10-30 years.
- The BHAG should exist and be exciting in its own right. If the company’s leadership team was to change with the BHAG not yet complete, the BHAG should still inspire everyone to achieve it.
- The BHAG will be aligned to the organization’s core values.
BHAGs aren’t just for businesses, they can be used by individuals too. If you are a project manager and want to become a program manager then you don’t have a BHAG, you have a short to medium term goal. Remember, BHAGs are BIG! You can use a BHAG when you want to set a vision for the way in which you want to radically transform your life for the better. This BHAG can obviously apply to either your personal life or career equally. If fact, because a true BHAG is so huge, it will probably encompass both personal life and career.
Here are some example BHAGs for companies to get you thinking:
- Google: index all the fragmented online digital information in the world and make it instantly accessible to anyone, anywhere.
- Nokia: to introduce 1 billion plus people to the Internet for the first time in emerging markets.
- Nike: Crush Adidas.
As you can see from the above example, BHAGs are huge goals, yet they are simple and too the point. There is no right or wrong way to create a BHAG, just have a look at Nike’s BHAG – “crush Adidas”.
Bold visions stimulate bold steps, and this is the point of BHAGs. They encourage you to set your sights high and not just settle for what you have currently. This applies to both individuals and businesses.
So, do you have a BHAG? What is it? Comment below and let us know your company’s BHAG or your own personal BHAG.