Most business owners recognise the importance of setting targets.
Leaders regularly set goals to achieve in the next quarter, next year, three and perhaps five years. But ten years? Really?
Introducing the BHAG
Some leaders find it difficult to set a ten year goal because they dealing with day-to-day pressures and continually firefighting.
One of my clients said; “I can’t think 10 years in advance. Why set a 10 year target?”
The idea, often referred to as a “big hairy audacious goal” (BHAG), isn’t designed to help tactically but to create a mindset where you are driven towards significant, perhaps previously unimaginable, achievement.
The idea of the BHAG was popularised and encapsulated in “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”, a 2005 book by James Collins and Jerry Porras. They looked at the habits of successful companies or projects and noticed that many set hugely ambitious goals.
Some classic BHAG examples
- Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen talked about having a computer on every desk and in every home.
- US President John F. Kennedy lit the fire under a nation by declaring that it should “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”
- Blackpool FC announced its goal was to reach the Premier League – something many teams in the lower divisions are too scared to talk about. But they did it – although it’s perhaps not a good idea to look too closely at what happened afterwards.
Creating your BHAG
A BHAG must be clear, compelling, stimulating and inspiring – however you don’t need to know how you’re going to achieve it.
It is something that excites everyone but at the same time is slightly intimidating and slightly scary.
- If you’re a property developer you might want to have built 50,000 homes.
- A marketing agency might decide to have ten FTSE 100 clients in ten years’ time.
Once a BHAG is set it galvanises everyone around you to achieve it.
Each client I work with chooses the horizon for their BHAG, ranging from five-25 years. The majority choose 10 years, so are setting a 10-Year Target.
This is the third question that we answer as a leadership team on the EOS Vision/Traction Organiser.
Once you set the 10-Year Target, the whole organisation acts differently, because they see and understand the big long-term goal.
Then quarter by quarter, and year after year, we go to work executing a plan to help us reach that 10-Year Target.