A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.
– James Collins and Jerry Porras
In their 1996 book, Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras presented the concept of the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or BHAG. A BHAG is a goal so bold and so transformative that the organization must radically change to achieve it. The leader’s job is also to emotionally galvanize the entire organization to support and work toward it, even if it could be decades away.
A BHAG is typically the result of a very serious threat or unusually lucrative opportunity. Collins and Porras identified four types of BHAGs, and some examples:
- Target Oriented: Achieve a specific goal, such as Boeing’s BHAG (before the term was coined) in 1950 to become the dominant player in commercial aviation.
- Competitive: Achieve a competitive goal, such as Nike’s quest in the 1960s to “Crush Adidas.”
- Role Model: Obtain a position similar to one held by another company in another industry, such as Giro Sport Design’s desire in 1986 to “Become the Nike of Cycling.”
- Internal Transformation: Create a radical internal shift, such as Merck’s 1930s effort to change from a chemical manufacturer into one of the world’s largest pharma companies.
Do any of your long term goals rise to the level of a BHAG? Would having one help focus efforts in the right direction? One word of caution: a BHAG must stay consistent for many years, otherwise it loses its impact.