The Power of the BHAG

February 14, 2018

We all want compelling work environments in which we ignite imaginations throughout the company and motivate people to achieve new levels of teamwork and productivity, but for many of us, this ideal feels out of reach. In their now classic management bestseller, Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras discuss the characteristics that accomplish this goal as they explored what factors contributed to certain companies dominating their industry and outlasting their competition. Among these factors is the power of the big hairy audacious goal (BHAG).

Hard work alone won't provide the necessary spark; neither will one-dimensional rewards, such as performance pay, if not integrated into a more comprehensive goal. Goals are different from vision and mission in the sense they're specific, measurable, and time-bound. BHAGs differ from common goals in that they're big enough to transcend individual leaders and daunting enough to challenge team members to unimagined accomplishments.

There are four essential characteristics of every audacious goal.

Clear and Compelling. BHAGs should require little or no explanation. For example, President John F. Kennedy famously declared in 1961 that the U.S. would put a man on the moon by 1970. While there may have been confusion around how to meet the goal, the desired outcome was clear. It also captured the imagination of people, bringing energy to accomplish the mission. When creating a BHAG, our objective is the same. If our goal doesn’t get people energized and enthralled, then it isn't a BHAG.

Uncomfortable. These goals should be foreign to our natural comfort zone. Our team should have reason to believe they can pull it off but not without sustained heroic effort, committed teamwork, and God's blessing. The only way long-term, uncomfortable goals will help create the ideal work environment is if the goal is compelling. When our goals aren’t powerful enough, our teams won’t be willing to go outside their comfort zone to reach them.

Bold and Exciting. For a BHAG to be effective, the excitement has to be about the goal, not the goal-setter. BHAGs should be so bold and exciting in their own right that they withstand leadership turnover. When done right, it will continue to stimulate progress even if the firm's key leader departs before achieving the goal.

Aligned. If your goal isn't consistent with your company's core ideology (e.g., vision, mission, core values, and ministry objectives), then it's not worth pursuing. Even if the goal seems to meet the other characteristics, ultimately it won't have longevity. Eventually, it will undercut your core ideology rather than use the ideology to rally the team around an important goal.

Do you have a BHAG? Does it meet these characteristics? Download our FREE BHAG worksheet to develop a new goal that your team and company can rally around!

 

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