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BHAG

What is BHAG: Big Hairy Audacious Goal? Understand With Examples

Remember in childhood how we dreamed about our future, like I would become a pilot and fly around the globe, or be a doctor and save lives, become an engineer and build marvels? These were our audacious and fascinating goals, and we were thinking ahead of time and imagining our desired success, right? All these thoughts are our BHAGs- Big Hairy Audacious Goals which we dreamt of 10-15 years ago and worked to achieve. 

Similarly, every company that wants to achieve high sets its BHAG guided by its core values and purposes. BHAG is a goal-setting framework that focuses on ambitious, realistic goals outside the comfort zone and well-agreed-upon to achieve. By the end of this blog, you will understand big hairy audacious goals thoroughly and know how BHAGs can align the company’s vision to accomplish its long-term goals. 

So let’s get started! 

A Big hairy audacious goal is a clear and compelling long-term goal (at least ten years) that an organization tries to accomplish. It is an ambitious goal that can seem impossible to achieve initially, but the target becomes achievable with persistent hard work and dedication. The term BHAG came from the book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, ‘Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,’ which states that visionary companies have clear and audacious goals to stay focused and motivated. It is pronounced as ‘bee-hag.’

A BHAG acts as a north star for the company to stay on track, guiding it toward its goal. In a nutshell, a big hairy audacious goal is an ambitious goal that a company is willing to take risks to achieve it.

One of the most potent examples of BHAG is President Kennedy’s 1961 famous declaration: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” The outcome, of course, was a historic moon landing in 1969.

Big Hairy Audacious Goal is a long-term goal-setting framework with many loose ends that a company might not have all the answers to initially but aspire to fulfil with its willingness to continuously take bold and daring steps. A big audacious goal gets you to think out of the box and aim higher. They are much larger than a company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and help employees take long-term goals seriously.

Big hairy audacious goals help to focus an organization’s efforts around a big goal that inspires everyone to work hard to make it come true. 

An excellent example of a big audacious goal of an IT company can be ‘Become the world’s leading IT services provider.’ This goal cannot be achieved in a year or two; it would take a decade or more and is very ambitious and driving.

A good BHAG should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). You can also use the SMART goal framework to create your audacious goal.

BHAGs are long-term, audacious goals. There are four types are: target-oriented, competitive, role model, and internal transformation.

Target-oriented BHAGs

Big Hairy Audacious Goals that you’re aiming to achieve within a specific time frame (at least ten years). It should be big enough to inspire the whole team and encircles the company’s goals and values.

Target-oriented goal examples

  • Boeing – establishing Boeing as a major player in the commercial aircraft industry after WWII.
  • Microsoft – to put “a computer on every desk and in every home.” 

Competitive BHAGs

Understand your competition and plan to do better. Establish a competitive big hairy audacious goal to overpower your competitor and establish authority in the sector. This would unite your team against your competitor, motivate them to work more efficiently to beat them and establish the company as the market leader.

Competitive goal examples

  • Nike – ‘Crush Adidas (1960)’
  • Honda – ‘Yamaha wo tsubusu! We will destroy Yamaha!’ (1970)

Role model BHAGs 

You do not require to create a unique big hairy audacious goal; make a role model who is an industry leader outside your immediate competition and aspire to emulate the traits of that company. Understand what made them successful, get inspiration, and establish excellence in your industry.

Role Model goal examples

  • Giro Sport Design – Become Nike of the cycling industry
  • Stanford University – To become the Harvard of the West

Internal transformation BHAGs 

Understand your company’s vision and goals that you want to fulfil; if your current strategy is not working, create your big hairy audacious goal by pivoting the business strategy. Then, focus internally on your transformational change. It would require a solid change management process and would be difficult as it could lower the team morale.

Internal transformation goal examples

  • Netflix – switching from DVD mailing to the world’s first streaming platform.
  • Best Buy – transition from an exclusively in-person shopping experience to becoming a digital leader in technology. 
BHAG is an ambitious long-term goal requiring risks and a 50-60% probability of success but drives the company’s growth. It can energize management and employees, motivate the organization to reach its full potential, and separate the company from its competitors. In addition, a Big hairy audacious goal is an emotional tool to energize the team and make them work hard to achieve it.

Moreover, a big hairy audacious goal also acts as a goalpost for planning, so companies don’t get fixated on achieving a goal too soon. Instead, they can continuously aim higher and higher with the goal in mind. Eventually, a big audacious goal helps companies stay focused and determined on achieving greatness rather than bogged down by short-term goals. 

BHAG

How to setup a great Big Hairy Audacious Goal

  • The goal should be challenging to complete and require many bold and risky decisions, but it should also be realistic.
  • A great BHAG is always clear, accurate, and compelling that does not require any explanation.
  • A BHAG should dare the management and employees to work more efficiently to achieve it.
  • It should be aligned with the company’s existing goals and purposes.

Let’s see Meta’s (Facebook) BHAG:- “make the world more open and connected” and “give everyone the power to share anything with anyone.”

These goals are very clear and measurable and require more than a decade to achieve the end goals by overcoming zillions of challenges.

Over the years, many companies have set up their BHAGs some of them accomplished them with persistent efforts from the management and the employees. Below are some of the examples:-

  • Google – “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • SpaceX – “enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.”
  • Walmart – “Become a $125 billion company by the year 2000.” 
  • Amazon – “Any book, in any language, available in less than a minute.”
  • Tesla – “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
  • Airbnb – Create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.
  • Spotify – To unlock the potential of human creativity

Conclusion

BHAG (bee-hag) is an audacious long-term goal (at least ten years). Jim Collins and Jerry Porras coined the term in their book ‘Build to Last.’ BHAG goal setting framework is aligned with the core vision and values of the company and drives it to long-term success based on its set goal. Big hairy audacious goal is a clear and compelling goal that inspires the company management and employees to take risks and make bold decisions to achieve higher and fulfill its goals. Throughout the blog, we have covered big hairy audacious goal thoroughly with several examples and understood what it is, why it is required, and how to set up and achieve it.

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FAQs

Can a BHAG be a smart goal?

The SMART framework, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound, is typically used for creating specific goals. However, it can also be applied to crafting an inspiring and challenging BHAG. Therefore, using SMART guidelines can help you develop a powerful big hairy audacious goal.

What are the 4 categories of BHAG?

There are four categories of big hairy audacious goal are: target-oriented, competitive, role model, and internal transformation.

What is the importance of Big hairy audacious goal?

A Big hairy audacious goal helps to align an organization or individual around a shared vision, provide a sense of purpose and direction, and inspire greater creativity and innovation.


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