Let’s talk about BHAGs – those Big Hairy Audacious Goals (a concept described in Built to Last by Jim Collins) meant to lead a company into the future. Defining them is like saying what you want to be when you grow up.

BHAGs are so big they take your breath away and are the catalyst to stimulate progress and to keep people engaged.

Like the 1961 US BHAG to put a man on the moon.

There’s a way to set your BHAGs to give them the best chance of success, so let’s talk about what not to do by analyzing the six BHAG mistakes to avoid.

1. The BHAG doesn’t fit your Hedgehog

Your BHAG must be tied to what you can be the best at, what you’re deeply passionate about and what drives your economic engine. This is what Jim Collins calls The Hedgehog Concept.

You can’t build a BHAG with any substance unless you’ve honed in on your hedgehog. Revenue-motivated entrepreneurs may say they want to be a hundred million or billion-dollar company, but if that’s not tied into anything it’s just setting your biggest incremental number.

And, by connecting it to your Hedgehog, you apply a disciplined filter woven into the strategy of your business.

2. The wrong timeframe

BHAGs should be a minimum of 10 years and no more than 30 years out.

Not three years, not five.

It’s far enough in the future that logic shouldn’t prevail. You want to think big, dream big, and not be caught up in today’s environment.

And don’t pick a specific date to achieve it. You just can’t plan how your BHAG will land 15 years from now.

 3. It’s not your core competency

There has to be a connection to your core competencies – what you can be the best in the world at though relentless execution and continual improvement that drives profit.

4. It’s not inspiring

You need a North Star to guide you – to mean something and be connected to your purpose and core values. Driving towards it is its own intrinsic reward.

Does it get the creative juices of the team flowing?

Is it something that people think would be awesome if you did it?

Is it worth the devoted effort of 10 or 20 years of creative energy?

5. It becomes wallpaper

You have to constantly breathe life into your BHAG or it will fade.

It’s got to be ingrained into the hearts and minds of the entire company.

It’s your rallying cry – who you are, what you’re about and the difference you’re making. But you have to keep singing it out to keep it alive and relevant.

6. It’s too easy and too small

Your BHAG should challenge your existing capabilities. There should be massive holes in your plan that you don’t yet know how to fill. If it’s too easy, you’re not going to make the changes required to continue to get better and better.

Getting your BHAG right takes work and a lot of debate. But if you get your hedgehog nailed first and sync it back to your purpose, it’s incredibly powerful. It keeps you inspired and focused for the long haul, which is what it’s about.

The Challenge

  • How relevant is your BHAG to what you do?
  • What can you do to either enhance/update your BHAG, or if you’ve nailed it, bring it more to life?

We highly recommend this great article called Building Your Company’s Vision by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras to walk you through core purpose and values, and BHAG.

If you need help to create or dust off your BHAG, let us know.

More details on Episode 87 of The Growth Whisperers.


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