Why Big Hairy Audacious Goals Are Most Important To Your Business

While some business goals are functional and achieving them is vital to your continued operation, others are aspirational and affirm your long-term vision for your organization. Big Hairy Audacious Goals (or BHAGs) reside in between this gap of practicality and motivation; they express achievable, yet remarkable milestones that can help drive performance and create a culture of growth and success of which others want to be part.

After interviewing dozens of successful founders, we’ve found that BHAGs often come up in conversation when talking about how those founders scaled up their business. In this article, we’ll provide you with context and understanding of BHAGs, as well as some ideas for formulating your own.

Pushing The Limits To Create New Behaviors

By breaking the 4-minute mile in 1954, Roger Bannister demonstrated that the realm of possibilities is endless; however, it’s certainly limited by our beliefs. While the 4-minute mile was thought to be an impossible feat, an interesting phenomenon was set in motion following the great sports achievement. Once the barrier was removed, it created a new belief of what’s possible and paved the way for over 14,000 runners to register for sub 4-minute miles.

To bring this back into the context of your business, such a mental reset in what’s possible happens every time your team sees a new process introduced that triples productivity (e.g., a new sales record is shattered every month). These are the milestones that as leaders we must not only celebrate, but we must set for ourselves and our teams as BHAGs. The goals can serve to both inspire and create new behaviors that often unlock growth potential previously unknown.

For better or worse, by definition, goals serve to limit our efforts. What we perceive as possible becomes our ceiling; therefore, by setting goals that are below our true potential is self-limiting. BHAGs work to stir up the notion of which possibilities exist. If we can get our team to agree on pursuing a BHAG, which is both beyond the realm of what’s possible today and something to reach for tomorrow, we’re painting an inspiring vision and getting a group committed to the cause.

We all come to realize that the effort will require differences from the current behavior to achieve our end. From a leadership perspective, it’s important to paint an inspiring vision to gain buy-in to a group commitment.

The Power of Commitment

The power of commitment is essential for achievement. As Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of the landmark book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, stated: “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.”

Commitment and consistency help everyone involved to be on the same page and excited by the possibilities of pursuing BHAGs.

What are BHAGs?

The term was coined and popularized by Jim Collins, the author of the books, Good to Great and Built to Last . Collins defined a Big Hairy Audacious Goal as a clear and compelling target that an organization seeks to work toward by inspiring its employees. These goals push boundaries and challenge companies.

The other interesting thing that BHAGs do is create a sense of novelty, a fundamental need in human psychology. This is the idea that we seek to experience that which has not been previously experienced and differs from the everyday routine.

As challenging as change is for any individual or organization, building off of our basic human needs for something new, and allowing a collective group to be inspired to work together, function as two important elements that confirm why BHAGs are so powerful.

How To Create Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal

The BHAG should have a reasonable chance of being achieved ideally, it should have at least a 50% chance of success. (investopedia.com)

In his scholarship Colin explored the idea of BHAG and coupled it with what he called, the Hedgehog Concept, the intersection of the following 3 questions:

  1. What are you deeply passionate about?
  2. What can you be the best in the world at?
  3. And what drives your economic engine?

Answering these will help you create a focal point for your organization around which the Big Hairy Audacious Goal should center. In other words, your BHAG should be derived from the intersection of those 3 responses.

Finding this overlap of where your organization is deeply passionate, where you’re the best situated in the world, and what drives your economic engine will empower you to identify and emphasize your company’s fulcrum of growth.

The Four BHAG Models

There are four BHAG models that can help you draw inspiration:

  1. The first is the Targeted Oriented BHAG. This is where you set a defined goal that’s either quantitative or qualitative in nature. This could be a dollar amount or percentage that is related to growth or some other meaningful and clearly understood metric.
  2. Secondly, we have the Competitive BHAG in which you’re challenging a competitor or enemy. Such a focus on a common enemy can create immediate camaraderie within your organization.
  3. The third is the Role Model BHAG where you adopt traits, or model another company. Typically, that is a company outside your competition, and possibly, outside your industry. However, it’s one that you admire and serves as a bit of inspiration.
  4. And the fourth is the Internal Transformation BHAG. In this model, like the name suggests, you focus on your own internal transformational change.

How To Choose Which Model Is Best For You And Your Organization

Scenario 1: You’re already a well-established company that’s considering pivoting or redefining your focus, and perhaps, moving towards and engaging a passion.

In this case, the Internal Transformation BHAG might be the best option since it can help to drive your redefinition or pivot.

Scenario 2: There is an organization that exists outside your industry or competition that you admire. This instills a culture, or set of traits, that you would love to see your organization adapt.

In this context, it’s a great opportunity to utilize the Role Model BHAG in order to realize your vision and become the best in the world.

Scenario 3: You’re working hard and moving towards the top to become the best in your market. As a result, you need that extra push to unseat the current champion. Here, the Competitive Model BHAG seems like a great fit.

Scenario 4:None of the aforementioned scenarios resonate with you, but you have a vision, and perhaps a new market in which you want to engage, as well as a set of targets and goals that will inspire your team.

In this case, the Target Oriented Model BHAG might just be right for you.

Recommended Steps for Moving Forward

Regardless of which model you decide upon, it’s important to remember that it is incumbent upon you as a leader to provide meaningful goals to your organization. Big Hairy Audacious Goals can help point us in the right direction, as well as to balance our gr owth goals and help align our teams committed to a common good.

Frictionless serves as a platform to help in refining and articulating your strategic planning, as well as enabling your team to collaborate and stay on track in hitting your Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

Sign up for a free trial today.