What is a BHAG?

by Carly Clyne | Oct 27, 2021

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Today we’re talking about BHAGs. It’s a term you may not have come across before – but here at TBG we love it.

Before we dive into the benefits of BHAG goals and what they mean for your business, let’s run through a few BHAG basics:

  • BHAG goals give a fun name to a scary concept – helping you safely consider what direction you’re going in and how you’re getting there
  • Considering BHAG goals (and putting them into place) can be daunting, but there’s huge payoff to be had when properly implemented
  • Having fun with your business and easing off on the serious side can have some significant benefits

Let’s begin! 

So what is a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? 

A BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal for short and pronounced ‘Bee-Hag’ is a term coined by business growth experts Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Their focus with the book was offering supportive strategies to help businesses achieve longevity and prosperity through being guided by a set of core values and strong purpose.

The concept of BHAG goals is the creation of a clear, compelling target for an organisation to strive for. They can be applied to any business of any size, composition and industry. BHAGs are generally long-term goals, encouraging you to think big and energising and exciting you and your workforce to take into account the future vision for your company.

BHAGs can be split into four categories – Role Model, Common Enemy, Targeting, and Internal Transformation. 

 5 big hairy audacious goal examples 

One of the easiest ways to see how you could implement BHAG goals in your business and get inspired is to check out some big hairy audacious goal examples. 

  1. Microsoft 

In the early 1980s, Microsoft defined their vision in the form of a BHAG target that at the time felt unimaginable – a computer in every home, one on every desk. Now it’s the opposite that is unimaginable.

  1. Nike 

Nike’s competitive BHAG was simple and straight to the point – ‘Crush Adidas’. This goal was set in the 1960s when Nike was relatively obscure in the sportswear industry. Now Nike consistently trumps Adidas in annual sales; in 2020 Adidas’ $12,070m revenue was eclipsed by Nike’s $34,388m.

  1. Sony

The brand is now known as one of the biggest electronics firms and is a trusted, long-standing player in the tech industry, but in the early 1950s, Japanese products had a reputation for being poor quality. Sony’s target-based BHAG? ‘Become the company that most changes the worldwide image of Sony products as being of poor quality.’ Within two decades, they’d achieved their goal.

  1. Amazon 

Perhaps one of the strongest examples of a BHAG in action is Amazon’s mission statement, set when the company was first conceived back in 1994 when the concept of online shopping was virtually non-existent. ‘To be the earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to discover anything they might want to buy online’. The results speak for themselves.

  1. SpaceX

This one hasn’t come to fruition yet – but it’s an example of a BHAG in progress. SpaceX’s target-based BHAG plans to put people on Mars may feel out of reach right now, but when we look back at other companies and the fulfilment of equally ambitious BHAGs it looks less audacious. 

These business goals should scare you, and when you put big ambitions out in the public realm there will be people who will say it isn’t possible. But examples 1-4 show that despite this, achieving your ultimate goal is possible, however unattainable it may initially seem. 

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal examples above should give you an idea of the magnitude of the goals you should be setting. Yours will be unique to you and your business, but taking a look at how others have successfully implemented BHAGs, including what they did and why, is a great way to start generating ideas and get those creative juices flowing.

BHAG goals and OKRs

OKRs and BHAGs go hand-in-hand when it comes to elevating your business. Although it might seem like they’re the same, they’re not – think of a BHAG as the destination, and OKRs as the tools you’ll need to get there.

Your BHAG should feel big – after all, the clue’s in the title! Big goals need to be split down into smaller ones – and that’s where OKRs come into their own. Making large ambitions achievable through the implementation of structured smaller objectives, each with their own roadmap to help you reach them.

Some questions to ask when setting BHAG goals include:

  • Does it get people excited?
  • Does it get people’s creative juices flowing?
  • Is there forward progress and momentum to be found within this goal? 

For more expert guidance on setting ambitious goals for your business, get in touch with our team today.