Creating a Big Hairy Audacious Goal: The Creation of the BHAG

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

What in the world is a BHAG, and why does it matter? A BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a way to get out of the weeds, and create a distinction between working in the business and working on the business. Creating a BHAG is also a way to take all of the smaller goals you have and connect them to a higher level mega-goal – the BHAG. Not sure if a BHAG is for you? That’s okay. I invite you to read the following list before making a choice.

Do any of these sound like a day you’ve experienced recently?

  • Working in the business more often than working on the business – this is an important distinction, and means that you are working on the day-to-day operations of the business more than you are the long-range planning and vision for the business.
  • Reacting to the daily business needs, more often than working purposefully, and wondering if those reactions are in any way connected to the vision of the business.
  • Spending more time at a computer screen than a whiteboard.
  • Feel like you are going in multiple directions all at the same time, while wondering if these multiple directions are connected to each other, and your other long-term goals.
  • You have multiple competing goals, and are unsure how to connect them.
  • You are unsure how to connect your metrics to the day-to-day business operations, AND, your long-term goals.

If you experienced any of the above, then creating a BHAG is for you. Where did the term BHAG come from? Here is an excerpt from Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras.

Boeing Corporation is an excellent example of how highly Visionary companies often use bold missions – or what we prefer to call BHAGs (pronounced bee-hag, short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”)– as a particularly powerful mechanism to stimulate progress.

One of the coolest things about creating a BHAG, outside of the progress that lives inside of that creative experience, is that you can create them for your personal and professional lives.

Let’s look at the creation of a BHAG through a real life example – mine.

After 6 months in my current position, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, in Albany, Oregon, I was wondering exactly what I had committed to. Has that happened to you before? It happens to all of us.

Anyway, I was working hard, very hard. And, most of that work was focused on working in the business, not on the business. As I’ve mentioned earlier in this post, and in other posts, if all you do is work in the business, you will simply get the same result you got the day before – the same thing, everyday. Why? Because you are doing the same tasks everyday. Simple. It’s not that you don’t desire to grow, and do more, however, you are effectively stuck in yesterday.

However, if you can shift to working both in the business, and on the business, watch out.

After over a year of working in the business, I went to a strategic thinking training, led by Terri Houde, which was where I first experienced the BHAG. I believe we were first asked to work through some of our goals, to identify them, and write them out. Then we were asked to go out on a ledge, and create a goal that was at the limits of what is possible – the BHAG.

Here is the one I created.

Becoming the State recognized leader in noncredit education

Creating a BHAG is a life changing experience, because in one moment you create in language a goal that is so big, it is visionary. And, what do we know about working inside of a vision, rather than working outside of a vision?

“Having a vision provides a sense of purpose and direction for the business. Your vision will help you define your short and long-term goals, and guide the decisions you make along the way. A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved…” ~ Ralph Lauren

Okay. I’ve created a BHAG, now what? Don’t know. I didn’t either. Here, however, is what happened.

Once the BHAG was created, it was time to inform the staff about the vision. I created a very simple presentation, which I delivered at a team building training at the end of 2018. Why is standing before your team and delivering a vision needed and necessary? It is important, so they can see you, AND themselves inside of the vision. When we can see ourselves as part of a vision, we are going to act in accordance with that vision.

In fact, I told the team often then that the BHAG came through me, however, it was a part of everyone of them. I can see each of them in the vision.

I should also mention that when the vision was created, we were also implementing Traction, which is a way to systematize your business operations (Wickman, 2012). The timing was perfect, because we were able to make connections to the 10-year vision (BHAG). We then created the following.

  • 5-year priorities and goals
  • 3-year priorities and goals
  • Yearly goals and priorities
  • Quarterly goals and priorities
  • Weekly and monthly next actions

All of which were connected to the 10-year BHAG!

Working inside of a vision the past two years has been a wonderful learning experience. We’ve achieved some of the goals we’ve set out to accomplish, and have many more to achieve. However, we are all pointed in the same direction, focusing on the same things, and have a shared language around a vision that was created from a one-day training experience where a BHAG was created.

Now we find ourselves in a very new situation – COVID-19. Well, in the next post, we will discuss what you do when your BHAG is severely disrupted. Can you guess? Yes, no?

You create another BHAG!

Yep, that’s right. You can have a BHAG that lives inside of another BHAG. I’d share that one with you, however, it is very new, and the team hasn’t even seen it yet. Next time, promise.

Remember, when you are interested in taking your business, organization, team, self, to the next level, create a BHAG. Then work backwards and connect that vision to this year, quarter, month, week, and day. Then you’ll know that every action you take is moving you closer to your ultimate vision, mega-goal, or BHAG!

References

Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperBusiness, 1997.

Wickman, Gino. Traction Get a Grip on Your Business. Publisher: New York : BenBella Books, Inc., 2012. URL.

You can reach Jeff Flesch at fleschj@linnbenton.edu and Terri Houde at houdet@linnbenton.edu.

Published by Jeff Flesch

Interests include personal, professional, and transformational development, increasing access to higher education, and realizing equity for all.

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