big-hairy-audacious-goal-bhag

What Is A Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)? The Big Hairy Audacious Goal In A Nutshell

The notion of a big hairy audacious goal was first introduced by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. A big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) is a clear and compelling long-term goal guided by a company’s values and purpose.

Understanding a big hairy audacious goal

The notion of a big hairy audacious goal was first introduced by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.

Several key points define a BHAG. The goal must:

  • Shift the way the company does business or how it is perceived in the industry. These goals may be audacious or innovative and be the result of out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Encourage the company to work outside its comfort zone with confidence, commitment, and even a little arrogance.
  • Require little explanation. In other words, people should understand what the company is trying to do with little effort. NASA and its mission to put a man on the moon is one such example.
  • Be aligned with organizational strategy, lest it becomes a hollow aspirational statement.
  • Be worked toward every day with a sense of urgency, even if it may not be realized for decades.

Creating a big hairy audacious goal

When companies sit down to create a big audacious hairy goal, many make the mistake of not aiming high enough. Indeed, the goal has to be audacious enough that there is a realistic chance of not achieving it.

To counteract this tendency, it is useful to set a goal with a 70% chance of success. This encourages the organization to be brave and take a risk, which stimulates progress and forces it to dramatically improve its processes.

With that said, below is a general framework for creating a BHAG:

  1. Conceptualize – an idea must first be brainstormed that will change the business, industry, or the lives of consumers. It’s important to let go of constraints and allow imaginative ideas to be considered. The idea must be action-oriented, innovative, compelling, exciting, and take a minimum of 10 years to implement.
  2. Test – run each idea through a feasibility test to determine whether it is something the company can realistically fund. 
  3. Commit – this may be the hardest part. Commitment means the goal is broken down into smaller parts and work is started as soon as possible. Progress should be monitored over the years to ensure the organization does not lose interest in its goal. To that end, the goal should be measurable and have a clear finish line. This motivates employees to work toward a defined endpoint.

Big hairy audacious goal examples

Here is a look at a few big hairy audacious goals from notable companies or organizations:

  1. General Electric – “Become #1 or #2 in every market we serve and revolutionize this company to have the speed and agility of a small enterprise.
  2. Walmart (1990) – “Become a $125 billion company by year 2000.
  3. Starbucks – “Become the most recognized & respected consumer brand in the world.
  4. Amazon – “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.
  5. Microsoft – “A computer on every desk in every home.
  6. Stanford University – “Become the Harvard of the west.

Key takeaways:

  • A big hairy audacious goal is a clear and compelling long-term goal that requires innovative thinking. The concept was first introduced to the world by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.
  • A big hairy audacious goal must change the landscape of a business or industry and requires that employees work outside their comfort zones. These goals must also be self-explanatory and easily understood.
  • Big hairy audacious goals have been set and then accomplished by visionary companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Walmart.

Related Business Concepts

OKR

what-is-okr
Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”

Balanced Scorecard

balanced-scorecard
First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.

Lightning Decision Jam

lockes-goal-setting-theory
The theory was developed by psychologist Edwin Locke who also has a background in motivation and leadership research. Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation provides a framework for setting effective and motivating goals. Locke was able to demonstrate that goal setting was linked to performance.

SMART Goals

smart-goals
A SMART goal is any goal with a carefully planned, concise, and trackable objective. To be such a goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Bringing structure and trackability to goal setting increases the chances goals will be achieved, and it helps align the organization around those goals.

Backcasting

backcasting
Businesses use backcasting to plan for a desired future by determining the steps required to achieve that future. Backcasting is the opposite of forecasting, where a business sets future goals and works toward them by maintaining the status quo.

Moonshot Thinking

moonshot-thinking
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

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Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"