What Is BHAG?

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year
and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.”
– Bill Gates

What Is BHAG?

To put it simply, a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal or BHAG – a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies – is a long-term, 10-to-25-year goal, guided by your company’s Core Values and Purpose.

But it’s more than just a goal.

We’re talking about a challenge so audacious, outside-the-box, and hairy that it might feel as if you’ll never achieve it. We’re talking about a ‘put a man on the moon’ level goal here.

However, your BHAG must be connected to your company’s underlying strategy, or else it just becomes an aspirational statement or random number.

Why a BHAG is critical for your business?

One of the biggest values behind the BHAG is that it gets you out of thinking too small.

Ironically, setting a long-term goal that is big and audacious also creates a sense of urgency.

If your BHAG is to “Enable human exploration and settlement of Mars” (SpaceX), then you best believe that won’t happen in a mediocre company.

Your BHAG is your Everest. It is one clear purpose and vision that everyone on your team is on board with.

If anyone is ever unclear which direction to head towards, or if they’re questioning whether a decision is beneficial for the company, they only need to ask, “is this getting us closer to our BHAG?”

This clear goal will influence all current and future recruitment, as you’d want to hire the best people in order to achieve this audacious goal.

Not only that, but this clarity will also attract the right people who want to be a part of realizing said goal.

But the most pivotal reason why a BHAG is critical for your company is it forces you to become an amazing, visionary company. That is the nature of a good BHAG, which brings us to our next point…

Elements Of A Good BHAG:

“A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot.”
– Joe Vitale

The paradox of a good BHAG is that it has to be so audacious, that there is a possibility you might not achieve it. Sounds crazy, right?

If you set a BHAG that you’re 100% of achieving, then it just isn’t big, hairy and audacious enough. And that’s what we’re aiming for, the stars! We can’t settle for less or we land on the moon.

Why do we want a goal that we might not achieve?

Because that is the second element of a good BHAG, it makes your organization better. The sheer boldness of your goal will stimulate progress, forcing you to dramatically improve to achieve it.

In order to take a man safely to the moon and back, NASA had to operate on a superb level. BHAGs help build great companies because you can’t achieve a BHAG without greatness in place.

And finally, is your BHAG measurable?

Using the NASA example above, they knew they’d achieved their BHAG when they safely put a man on the moon and brought him back to earth.

So make sure your goal is measurable, or else it won’t be a proper BHAG.

The elements of a good BHAG

  • Feels as if it’s 70% achievable
  • Has to be clear and compelling
  • Expands your company’s current capabilities
  • Is measurable
  • Must be connected to your company’s strategy
  • Is long-term (probably a minimum of 10 years or longer)

A good BHAG is instrumental in creating visionary companies.

So, does your company have one?