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A Big Hairy Audacious Goal

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An organization will go as far as the goals it sets. A common thread in organizations known for accomplishing remarkable success is the willingness of visionary leaders to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals. 


Big Hairy Audacious Goals shape an organization’s focus and purpose (Collins & Porras, 1994). These goals are accomplished over the longest stretch of time, often taking at least 10 years to achieve. While the finish line might be farther in the distance, the line is clear. BHAGs are not wordy and confusing. They are concise statements that compel team members to progress.


Not everyone likes the risk associated with a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. There were some who thought flying an aircraft was too dangerous and couldn’t be done. Visionary leaders willing to set goals others may view as outrageous are also responsible for providing the support for teams to achieve the goals.

A teacher would never expect her class to read a book without helping them to first read a sentence. The goal and expectation of reading a book does not go away, when a few students say it’s impossible. The teacher must plan to achieve the vision through scaffolds of support and goals along the way. Students are motivated as they experience success and see how the current path will get them to the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Reading a book is a clear and compelling finish line.


Name it. Where do you want to see the organization in 10-15 years?

Check it. Is the Big Hairy Audacious Goal clear and easy to understand?

Communicate it. Set or reset the organization’s focus on the BHAG.

Support it. What annual and 90-day goals will support achievement of the BHAG?

Monitor it. How will you know you accomplished the BHAG? How will you know you’re making the right progress along the way?

Reference: Collins, J. C., & Porras, J. I. (1994). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Conquer Big Goals

Leaders make change happen, and they do so by challenging their team to tackle “Big Hairy Audacious Goals.” To encourage and inspire a team to change and grow, leaders must break big goals into small, achievable action steps and celebrate the small wins along the way. The most effective change comes in incremental steps and the small wins create a cadence that keeps the synergy alive within the team. Small steps produce results that build confidence and increase the natural desire to increase momentum.