The work we do at RESULTS.com gives us the rare privilege of being able to study thousands of businesses, working closely with them to identify the right goals and approach to developing a successful business strategy.
We observe what works, and what doesn’t work in the real world, across a variety of industries. By having the opportunity to do this we’ve noticed patterns that consistently deliver the best results. One of these successful patterns is the development of businesses Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).
If this is the first time you’ve heard of a BHAG then you can also take a read of a previous write up of mine – How to Set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal for your Business.
In this post, I’ll share with you the approach to articulating your long-term future vision (BHAG) and engaging your team to pursue it.
What mountain do you want to climb?
Setting long-term business goals are a lot like being a mountain climber. You pick the biggest, baddest mountain you can climb, doing it because you know that there’s something great to be achieved when you reach the summit. What we’ve found that separates great mountain climbers from average mountain climbers (great companies from average companies) are the mountains they choose to climb.
It’s not about being “big”. It’s about being “great”.
Whilst Jim Collins’ BHAG acronym contains the word “big”, just setting a lofty growth target 5 to 10 years into the future is not necessarily going to inspire your team. Not everyone wants to be big. It’s about being “great”, however, you choose to define your greatness.
Take a look 5-10 years into the future. What GREAT achievement, would make you think that you spent those past years of your life wisely? Consider the envisioned future you want for your company.
Some companies comes up vague, waffly BHAGs implying they want to be, “The most respected company in the XYZ industry” etc. That’s not a BHAG. That’s just a nice, fluffy wish.
Your BHAG needs to be easy to understand and quantify. It needs to be a goal you can actually count and measure your progress toward on a monthly basis.
Every quarter, as part of your quarterly strategic planning rhythm you should ask yourself, “What progress have we made toward our BHAG this quarter?”
Inspires all your people, not just the management team.
If you really want to inspire your employees, your BHAG can’t just be something the managers aspire to. Everyone in the organization (and those you want to attract to your organization in the future), should look at your BHAG, and think, “Wow! I like where this company is going, and I want to be a part of it.”
Leaders must lead. Your team will only believe the BHAG can be achieved, to the extent they can see the leaders believe it.
As a leader, your first job is to vividly paint a picture of this “better future”. Your second job is to give your people clarity and certainty around the strategic moves that need to be made. In essence, “Here’s where we want to be, and here’s what we need to do next to ensure we get there.”
It’s not a linear path.
Your BHAG needs to be beyond the current capabilities of the organization, but still within the bounds of believable reality. You may not know “how” you will get there, but you back yourselves to figure out the answers along the way. A BHAG is not a linear path, it should be something you stare at and think, “How the heck are we going to do that?” You don’t know how yet, but you like the sound of it, and you’re going to figure out how.
Make it visible.
Post your BHAG and your current “score” on your dashboard where everyone can see it every day. Sure, it might take you many years to achieve the goal, but keeping it visible reminds you of what you are working toward, and serves as motivational fuel to keep you going through the tough times.
It also serves as a filter to help with strategic decision making. For every major strategic move you are contemplating ask, “How will this help us achieve our BHAG?”
This is one time when it’s OK to stretch.
As you know, I am a strong advocate for NOT setting your Key Performance Indicators (KPI) performance thresholds too high. KPIs are the numbers you track on a daily / weekly / monthly basis to drive “business as usual”; your operating model.
I urge clients to set their “green” performance thresholds at a level where your good people putting in an honest week’s work get to “win” most of the time – that is if you want to optimize employee motivation and engagement.
However when it comes to a BHAG, this is one instance where I think “stretch goals” are a good thing. We want our BHAG to stretch our thinking and capabilities, and to imagine what we might achieve if we really put our minds to it.
How does your BHAG stack up?