What is BHAG? | Everything you need to know

In strategic planning and organizational vision, there’s a concept that transcends the ordinary and dares to envision the extraordinary – BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal. This concept, introduced by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book “Built to Last,” has become a cornerstone for businesses aiming not just for success but for transformative, long-term achievements.

What is a BHAG?

A BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, is a long-term business goal that is both inspiring and challenging. It goes beyond the mundane and reaches for something extraordinary, urging companies and organizations to cast aside the ordinary and dream big.. BHAGs are bold, daring, and serve as a unifying focal point for an organization’s efforts.

Forcing Big Thinking

Beyond the Comfort Zone

BHAGs have a unique ability to propel companies beyond their comfort zones. By setting audacious goals, organizations are compelled to think beyond the immediate and reach for the extraordinary.

Ambition as a Driver

Ambition becomes the driver of progress. BHAGs force a recalibration of expectations, prompting leaders to envision achievements that were once deemed unattainable.

Prominent BHAGs

1. Microsoft (1980s)

BHAG: “A computer on every desk and in every home.”

Impact: Transformed Microsoft into a global technology powerhouse.

2. Google (1990s)

BHAG: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Impact: Catalyzed Google’s evolution into a tech giant with a profound impact on information accessibility.

3. NASA (1960s)

BHAG: “Land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.”

Impact: Ushered in a new era of space exploration and technological advancements.

Four Broad Categories of BHAG

1. Visionary BHAGs

Visionary BHAGs are centered around imagining a future state that transcends current realities. These goals encapsulate the organization’s vision for what it aspires to become. Characteristics of visionary BHAGs include:

  • Strategic Vision: A focus on long-term strategic objectives that redefine the organization’s purpose.
  • Innovation-Driven: Often associated with innovation and groundbreaking ideas that set the organization apart.

“Become the global leader in sustainable energy solutions” – This BHAG envisions a future where the organization leads in an emerging and crucial sector, emphasizing a commitment to sustainability.

2. Competitive BHAGs

Competitive BHAGs revolve around outperforming rivals in the industry. These goals are strategic in nature, aiming to secure a dominant position in the market. Characteristics include:

  • Market Leadership: A clear emphasis on surpassing competitors and achieving market leadership.
  • Performance Metrics: Metrics such as market share and revenue growth play a crucial role in defining success.

“Surpass the industry leader in market share within five years” – This BHAG sets a competitive tone, driving the organization to outshine its rivals in a specific timeframe.

3. Role-Model BHAGs

Role-Model BHAGs involve emulating the success of a benchmark or industry leader. These goals are inspired by external models that the organization admires. Characteristics encompass:

  • Benchmark Identification: Clearly identifying a role model or successful entity to emulate.
  • Adaptation of Best Practices: Incorporating best practices and strategies observed in the role model.

“Become the Amazon of our industry” – This BHAG aligns with the organizational aspiration to replicate the success and innovation associated with Amazon in a specific industry context.

4. Internal Transformation BHAGs

Internal Transformation BHAGs focus on driving change and improvement within the organization. These goals are geared towards enhancing internal processes, culture, and capabilities. Key characteristics include:

  • Cultural Shift: Aiming for a significant shift in organizational culture and practices.
  • Efficiency and Sustainability: Prioritizing initiatives that enhance operational efficiency and sustainability.

“Achieve zero waste production by implementing sustainable practices” – This BHAG signifies a commitment to internal transformation, emphasizing sustainability and efficient resource management.

Each category of BHAG serves a distinct purpose, whether it’s envisioning a strategic future, outperforming competitors, emulating role models, or driving internal transformation. The choice of BHAG category depends on the organization’s vision, strategic priorities, and the desired impact on its trajectory.

What is A Great BHAG?

1. Inspires and Motivates

A great BHAG inspires and motivates employees. It sparks enthusiasm and commitment, transcending day-to-day tasks.

2. Aligns with Core Values

A great BHAG aligns with the core values of the organization. It reflects the essence and purpose of the business.

3. Requires a Leap of Faith

A great BHAG isn’t a surefire plan; it requires a leap of faith. It’s audacious and challenges the status quo.

How to Create Your Own BHAG?

1. Reflect on Your Core Purpose

Understand the core purpose of your organization. What is the impact you aspire to make on the world?

2. Embrace Boldness

Don’t shy away from boldness. A BHAG should be daring and ambitious, stretching the limits of what seems achievable.

3. Involve Your Team

Collaborate with your team in BHAG creation. Collective input ensures broader perspectives and increased commitment.

Why is a BHAG Important for Your Business?

A BHAG provides a focused direction, aligning the efforts of the entire organization towards a common, aspirational goal.It serves as a powerful motivational force, igniting passion and dedication among employees. BHAGs offer a long-term vision that goes beyond quarterly targets, instilling a sense of purpose.

Litmus Test of a True BHAG

  • Clear and Compelling:

A true BHAG is clear, compelling, and easily understood by everyone in the organization.

  • Energizing and Exciting:

It energizes and excites. The thought of achieving the BHAG should evoke a sense of enthusiasm.

  • Outside the Comfort Zone:

It pushes the organization outside its comfort zone. A BHAG should be ambitious enough to require significant effort and innovation.

The Bottom Line

BHAGs are not just lofty ideals; they are strategic tools that propel organizations to unprecedented heights. A BHAG isn’t a mere destination; it’s a rallying cry, a force that transforms visions into reality. Embrace the audacious, and watch as your organization reaches new heights. After all, in the world of BHAGs, the audacious isn’t just a goal; it’s a call to greatness.