What is a BHAG?

BHAG (pronounced 'bee-hag') stands for 'Big Hairy Audacious Goal' first written about by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their great book 'Built to Last'.

It is a goal that really stretches the organisation way beyond most people's imagination of what is possible. A very good example would be the 'Moon' mission. It should be clear and compelling and act as a great focal point for everyone in the organisation. It should engage people and stimilate them.

It is a powerful mechanism to stimulate progress, but it does carry great risks.

In some ways it is similar to a vision statement.

Example BHAGs

Here are some examples:

  • the creation of the IBM 360 mainframe computer. IBM nearly ran out of money to pay their staff, but it was breakthrogh that lifted IBM into the next era of computing
  • the creation by Boeing in the fifties of their large commerical jet aircraft. Up till that point Boeing had just been a military aircraft manufacturer. It was a bold transformation. Again the sixties the built the biggest jet imaginable - the Jumbo jet.

  • in the eighties Jack Welch the CEO of General Electric set his company a huge goal - 'To become No. 1 or No. 2 in every market we serve and revolutionise this company to have the speed and agility of a small company.' By the late nineties...he had succeeded.
  • In 1990 Sam Walton of Wal-Mart set a new goal: to double the number of stores and increase the sales volume per square foot by 60% (specifically $ 125 billion) by the year 2000. At that time the largest retailer in the world had only reached $30 billion.

  • In 1934 Walt Disney aimed to do something that had never been done before: to create a full length animated feature film - Snow White. He committed most of the company's resources. People in the industry called it 'Disney's folly', but history proved them wrong. It created a new industry or market. He later went on to produce 'Bambi', and 'Pinocchio' and 'Fantasia'. All were outstanding box office successes.
  • Again in the fifties, Walt Disney set another risky goal(one of 'Walts's screwy ideas') to build a radically new kind of amusement park...known as Disneyland. He repeated again with the EPCOT center in the sixties. Walt Disney's maxim was 'DREAM, BELIEVE, DARE, DO'

  • It is important to note that from the outside of these companies, these BHAG goals seemed impossible, wild and unachievable, but within these companies they had the confidence in their resouces, know-how, and capability to achieve them, even though they were going to be stretched to the limit.

    A BHAG certainly act as a stimulus and unifying force or goal for the people within the organisation.