The Big Hairy Audacious Goal is a statement of Strategic Intent – the specific result the company will achieve in 10-30 years time. It is the inspiring “Mount Everest” they will climb. It is one of the compomnents of the company vision, as per the the Collins/Porras framework.
Key attributes of a good BHAG are:
- Inspiring – motivates everyone in the company
- Be possible – not easy, but it could be achieved if the whole company operated at the top of their game. The BHAG must be set with a realistic understanding of what the company can achieve – if it is set with bravado, it is more likely to demotivate
- Fit with company strategy, purpose and values
- Consistent – the BHAG will have no credibility if the business changes it every few years. A BHAG that is big enough to inspire will take a decade of extraordinary effort to deliver.
When is it useful?
It can be a very powerful way to communicate a clear direction and level of ambition that aligns the whole company. The management team must be committed to the BHAG, or it will not only have no power, it will reduce credibility.
Don’t force it artificially – when it comes it will immediately feel right.
An example from Starbucks is to overtake Coke as the world’s leading brand. It is a good example of fit with company strategy, purpose and values. The Starbucks BHAG is about world-class brand-building – at the heart of their strategy and values, not number of stores or revenue targets. And it will take the company performing at their best for 20 years to reach.
An example from Sony in the 1960’s and 70’s is to change the image of “Made in Japan” from poor quality to high quality.
A Non-profit example is John F Kennedy’s 1961 speech to Congress:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth………We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
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