Imagine where you will be in 10 years. What will your personal life look like? How about your professional life? What technology advances will have arrived, and how will they impact your life? What lives will pass, and what lives will be created? These deep, thought-provoking questions draw you to your purpose, your why, your reason for being.
I often categorize decades in life as my chapters … adolescent, teens, twenties, thirties, and so on. For each decade, I can recall making goals I want to accomplish by the start of the next chapter. Big, hairy, audacious, goals are a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.”
BHAG means something out-of-the-box, so big you may not accomplish it, so hairy that you’ll have to stretch yourself to achieve it, and so audacious that reaching it will be a game-changer in your life.
I remember a speech given by President John F. Kennedy at Rice University on Sept. 12, 1962, where he shared his BHAG about landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
When he gave the speech, our country was well behind the Soviet Union in space exploration. President Kennedy’s BHAG set the Apollo program in motion and the phenomenal achievement in July 1969, with Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon. About a fifth of the world’s population watched the event, the most ever tuned in to a telecast.
Companies must have a BHAG, too, imagining where they will be 10 years from now. This forces them to become notable visionary companies. Their BHAG must be consistent with the vision, and it serves as the company’s north star and magnifies its purpose. Ideally, the BHAG is clear and compelling. It’s so audacious the company may not achieve it. However, striving for it makes the organization better. The BHAG provides focused energy and undoubtedly expands the company’s capabilities. It’s measurable, and the company team and its many constituents must be committed to it and rally around it.
There are different types of BHAGs: target leaning, competition centric, role model oriented, or transformational. Ten years from now, you may imagine your company growing from a $3 million to a $15 million enterprise. You establish your sales target and milestones to get to the $15 million, measure along the way, and publish results so your organization can see the progression.
Maybe you want to focus on the competition and establish a BHAG that captures more market share going from your present 5% to 25% in 10 years. The strategies you adopt year-by-year and the milestones you achieve will increase market share, your team will focus on achieving the BHAG, and your decision-making will be enhanced and directed.
Suppose your focus is on making the best product that meets all environmental safety standards and contributes a net-zero to greenhouse gases. In this example, your company is a role model and leader in the industry for environmental compliance, and the BHAG drives you to achievement.
Finally, today maybe you’re a single service provider to a unique and isolated customer. However, your 10-year BHAG is to transform your company and diversify your services to accommodate several sectors and multiple customers in your service industry.
These are four examples of different BHAGs that help position a business for exponential growth. They all imagine the company being much more than what it is today. Just as President Kennedy pronounced, we will land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, one big, hairy, audacious goal for our country, you too can establish a BHAG for your company. Do this, and you’ll create focused and collective energy consistent with the vision and mission of the organization that will stimulate and enthuse the team to achieve it! This is how you lead, think, plan, and act. Now, let’s get after it!
Retired Col. Paul A. Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions. Paul and Lisa mentor and coach business owners on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. He can be reached at [email protected].