The Pitfalls to Avoid When Developing Your BHAG

A key part of your long-term strategy is what Jim Collins defines as your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – a 10-25 year visionary stretch goal. Your BHAG helps you grow with purpose. This ‘north star’ provides guidance and helps everyone in your company choose between the opportunities that arise as you continue to grow.  

Here are some pitfalls to avoid as you develop this key piece of your vision:

1.     Don’t go with the first idea you have  

Sometimes your first idea is a brilliant one, but often not. If your company uses your BHAG correctly, it will guide your decision making on a daily basis for the next 10-25 years, so it is critical to take the time to really think about it. Your BHAG should come out of that place where your passion meets your financial drivers and what your business can be best in the world at delivering. Figuring out how these three things come together and then connecting it to a long term goal takes some serious thought. Write that first idea down, and then challenge yourself to come up with as many ideas as you can. Maybe the first idea ends up being the best one, but probably the deeper you dig, the better your ideas will be. A;ways remember, long-term strategy is a process, not an even, even Starbucks took over a year  to come up with their BHAG to be the “number 1 consumer brand in the world”.

2.     Don’t choose something that doesn’t inspire and engage your team. 

If your BHAG is strictly financially focused or if it is too complex to be easily understood, it won’t get your team excited. Your BHAG should appeal to the heart as well as the head. The point of having a long term goal is to paint a future vision for your company that stretches your team, tapping into their passion and giving them alignment and focus as they work toward a single goal. If you pick a BHAG that is too complicated or number-driven, then chances are your team won’t be excited and won’t remember it or use it to make decisions about how they spend their time and your resources. Also having a boring BHAG won’t help you in the long run.

3.     Don’t set a goal that you already know how to accomplish

If you know how to achieve it, it is not Big, Hairy, or Audacious enough. A BHAG should require some innovation on your part; if you feel 100% confident today that you’ll hit your goal, then it is probably not really a BHAG. Your BHAG should be outside your comfort zone. Your team should scratch their heads when you ask them about how you’re going to achieve this goal. You want everyone in your business thinking about it, stretching themselves, and coming up with some innovative solutions to move you toward this future goal. However, make sure that you know how you are going to measure your progress toward achieving this goal. It is this clarity that will be motivating for your team. If they know exactly where you are trying to go, it will give them extreme focus to make decisions that bring you closer to your BHAG.


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