Friday, December 2, 2011

Lean Quote: BHAG Acts as a True Catalyst for Team Spirit

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines." — Collins and Porras, 1996

BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, an idea conceptualized in the book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James Collins and Jerry Porras. According to Collins and Porras, a BHAG is a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business’ existence.

Clear (who, what, where, by when)
Compelling and gripping ~ people "get it" right away
Bold; bordering on hubris and the unattainable

BHAGs are meant to shift how we do business, the way we are perceived in the industry and possibly even the industry itself. Collins and Porras describe BHAGs on a corporate level as nearly impossible to achieve without consistently working outside of a comfort zone and displaying corporate commitment, confidence and even a bit of arrogance.

BHAGs are bigger, bolder and more powerful than regular long- and short-term goals. They typically take a 10- to 30-year commitment, but they are exciting, tangible and something everyone just “gets” without any further explanation.

For me the key benefit of a BHAG is the focus and change of mindset which it demands. BHAGS cannot be achieved by continuing to do what you did last year and the year before. Incremental improvements a not sufficient it you are to achieve the BHAG. You’re forced to think differently, to work differently and to break away from that which worked in the past. A real BHAG require people to behave and act differently. Lastly a real BHAG is accompanied by a true sense of urgency.

Bold visions stimulate progress, ignite passion, focuses the mind and fires up the imagination. They ensure that you focus on what’s important and are influenced by unnecessary distractions. Big bold visions break the back of mediocrity and small mindedness. Don’t settle. Aim high, make a dent in the universe.

If you can envision the big picture and are ready to take a bold and life-changing step, then it’s time to develop a BHAG.

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  1. I've noticed two very different levels of BHAGs.

    The compelling and powerful ones are close to visions of an ideal state. They stretch us not just to perform but to also think and imagine.

    The other kind are just aggressive targets. Instead of cutting costs 5%, let's cut them 20%. People call them BHAGs. But to me, they lack the spirit of the other kind.

    Unfortunately, I often find the latter kind more frequently.

  2. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I think this is the biggest hurdle to coming up with BHAG's. I love your Friday quotes, always thought provoking!

  3. Collins (author of built to last) wrote that it's not a BHAG unless it's aligned to a mission/purpose that adds value to the customers. Otherwise it's just a goal.