The term Big Hairy Audacious Goal (“BHAG”) was proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. A BHAG encourages companies to define visionary goals that are more strategic and emotionally compelling. – Excerpt from

There are many terms to describe what a grand vision is. Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or ‘BHAG’, is arguably the top industry term used to describe a truly compelling vision that sits atop your strategic plan. Since it was coined in the mid 90’s by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, its’ use has spread around the world and is commonly used by top strategy management organizations and Harvard strategy professors alike. It’s certainly one of the least ‘professional’ sounding industry terms related to strategy, but that seems to be what makes people pay attention. It’s unusual and bold, just like the statement is intended to be.

It blows by all of the questions of why what your organization is doing may be important. Not to be mistaken for the boring “vision” statements that most organizations write and then ignore, a bold vision (BHAG) carried by bold and capable leaders inspires employees and engages the best they have to offer. Visions are meant to impact decisions people make all year long.

What makes a BHAG powerful is that if it’s matched with equally capable leadership, it mobilizes engaged employees in a way that elicits their discretionary effort. The combination of:
• The reach of the vision
• The culture of the organization
• Employee confidence in the leadership, and
• The sense of opportunity this creates
… ultimately sets the temperature for everything related to strategy and planning within an organization. If the leaders are trusted, and capable, employees will gladly follow them down the path toward something great and exciting.

All of the other components of a well-articulated strategy management system (value discipline, strategy map, balanced scorecard, accountability framework, etc…) require a compelling vision to drive them. They are mechanisms, this is the path. Inevitably, decisions made outside of the context of a well-articulated strategy and compelling vision are always challenging (as it should be), because there’s no context.

“A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.” — Jim Collins and Porras

• Action-oriented
• Clear (who, what, where, by when)
• Compelling and gripping – people “get it” right away
• Bold; bordering on hubris and the unattainable

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Categories: Strategic Planning