How to Get the Most Out of Your BHAG
For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming you already have a BHAG®, a 10-30 year goal. For review, BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. It should be inspiring, reinforce business fundamentals, and drive you to greatness. If you don’t have a BHAG please go back and review David Chavez’s 2019 article and video How to Set a Scary but SMART BHAG. Why is the BHAG so important for everyone in the company to understand? Because every employee is faced with choices in the course of their job. They have to decide, Do I go left or right? Do I go north or south? If they know the ultimate destination, the BHAG, they’ll make the right choice without having to rely on their supervisor or the executive team to make the decision.
In the rest of this article, I will explain how and where to talk about your BHAG so it will make the biggest impact in your company from now until you achieve it.
Let’s start with the CEO, owner or founder. You need to be able to give an inspiring 3 minute speech centered on the BHAG that paints a clear picture of what it will look like to achieve the goal. You should be able to present it without notes or preparation at any time. Share it at all-company meetings at least 4 times per year as you kick off each new quarterly race. Also, share at every Board of Directors’ meetings. And continue to share it from time to time at company celebrations where the whole company recognizes the achievement of significant goals. When you talk about your BHAG, it gives the goals context and emphasizes how important it is to the entire company to have achieved them. You should find yourself inspired every single time you give the speech. If not, reflect on why not. If you find yourself repeating certain phrases that work, reflect on those as well and notice why they are so meaningful. Keep using what works and refine over time.
Consider US President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade. That was a BHAG we could call “Man on the Moon.” Here’s what he said when making the announcement:
But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.
Aspire to make your 3-minute talk this inspiring and meaningful for your company.
Beyond the CEO, every senior leader in your company should have a 30-second version of a BHAG speech they can give at any time, without notes as well. At annual and quarterly planning retreats, have each leader give their BHAG speech. The CEO should always go last. You will all be left inspired and ready for action when you do this. It doesn’t take very long to get everyone aligned about where you’re ultimately headed.
For Kennedy’s example, we could imagine this of the Man on the Moon BHAG:
We are sending a man to the surface of the moon and bringing him back safely by the end of this decade. We are aware that we don’t yet know how many scientific and engineering breakthroughs need to be accomplished by our nation in this pursuit. We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
Many BHAGs can also become much more real with a scoreboard. Not all BHAGs are numerical, but if yours is, then make a big scoreboard everyone can see. It’s fun to walk into the office or plant and see a number that changes every day, based on cases shipped or whatever the metric is.
You can also get very creative with messaging your BHAG. Here are some examples:
- Paint the brief version on your conference room wall. Think “Moon” for our example.
- Print up post-it notes with your company name and the BHAG on them.
- Remind people of the BHAG at the beginning of all-company video messages from the CEO (skip the speech most weeks and just use the name or short version, as a reminder).
- Ask front-line employees for a quick selfie video talking about what the BHAG means to them and edit them all together into a special video for the holiday party.
- Make a section on your website explaining the BHAG and how you came up with it.
Let us know how you decide to bring your BHAG to life, and if you need help, get in touch and we’ll give you a hand.
Ted Sarvata | Assured Strategy