What is a BHAG?

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At a recent company meeting, one of our Senior Vice Presidents used the term BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  He was referring to what our marketing team was aiming for and, being a part of that marketing team, I was amped up. Why wouldn’t I be? Having big, hairy, audacious goals to strive for is certainly a good thing.

But after that meeting, sitting at my desk, I realized I had never heard of a BHAG. I remember thinking to myself: Did he just make that term up?

Lo and behold, no. He did not make it up. Big Hairy Audacious Goals are a real thing. (So real it even has its own Wikipedia Page!) And because I can’t be the only person in the world who didn’t know what a BHAG was, I’m writing this post.

First things first, what is a BHAG? According to Wikipedia, a BHAG is a “strategic business statement similar to a vision statement which is created to focus an organization on a single medium-long term organization-wide goal which is audacious, likely to be externally questionable, but not internally regarded as impossible.”

First proposed in a 1994 book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras, BHAGs were designed help employees work together more efficiently.

What’s the difference between BHAGs and a corporate mission statement you ask? Well, nothing really. Jim Collins told Inc. that when writing their book, he and Porras debated long and hard about what they wanted to call “ambitious long-term goals that galvanize successful companies.” While Porras wanted a business term (like “Corporate mission”), Collins wanted something a little more exciting. And thus Big Hairy Audacious Goals were born.

So how do you use BHAGs effectively in your business? Collins says the overarching power of the BHAG is to stop you from thinking too small and get you to start seeing the big picture. And by big he means 10, 20, 30 years down the line.

“A really good BHAG probably has a minimum length of about a decade. Two decades. Three decades,” he said. “On the other hand, because it’s so big and so audacious and so hairy it increases the sense of urgency.” He believes that knowing how much you have to do to hit that goal in 10 or 20 years will make you want to achieve it with an obsessive intensity. And, he said, “That’s how you do it” – that’s how you achieve your Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

Collins also has some words for BHAG-driven leaders: “The true BHAG-oriented leader is less interested in success [and] more interested in the sheer exhilarating pain of the journey. It’s the quest, it’s the training, it’s the growth, it’s pushing yourself. You really get off on that.”

Now that we both know what a BHAG is, it’s time to create them, to start working towards them, and maybe even to achieve them. Become a BHAG-driven leader and empower your employees to do the same.

Learn more about me by reading my bio below and then visit our website to discover ways Direct Capital can help your business grow and achieve your BHAGs for the future!

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