Strategic Initiatives Series (Part 1)
Strategic initiatives often start with a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. The term introduced in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Successful Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras gave a name to those goals which seem a bit out of reach, require strategy, wit, opportunity and a bit of luck. These goals not only align with the company’s objectives but bring out spirit in individuals and teams. They also offer a challenge that is compelling, an empowered feeling of triumph in winning and every reason to celebrate victory when the goal is met.
From the time we were children, BHAGs filled our favorite stories from The Little Engine That Could through the depiction of a BHAG achieved in the book and movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter must play and win a life sized chess game at all costs. All encourage us to think big, to reach for and accomplish what seems impossible. Each story also includes why the goal is important, what the goal enables us to do and in almost every case concludes with celebration and an invitation to challenge the next BHAG.
Some of us have personal BHAGs like losing weight during the holidays. I see some fairly unrealistic company BHAGs akin to bringing the Phoenix out of the ashes. But most of what I see companies propose should not be tagged as BHAG’s because they are too safe, normal business with little additional effort and achievable with little excitement in the process. These are really just business.
The BHAG’s that become strategic initiatives tickle the imagination, are electrical in creativity, bring out the best in everyone involved and make us dream of what happens when it is achieved. This is not a lottery type of dream as there is real effort involved and a sense of winning that is fueled by accomplishment and accented by luck rather than the other way around. While not impossible, on the surface the BHAG might appear to be out of reach. That is where the strategy comes in.
Tough challenges require finesse to achieve extraordinary results. Breaking down the BHAG into strategies creates a plan and methodology. It will still be tough and require excellent leadership, management and incremental planning. Each player will have to be at 110% of their game, thinking of ways to make their play contribute to the win, find detours around challenges and maintain focus and power through the hardest parts. The adrenaline rush of triumph, as wins are accumulated, makes the BHAG tangible and creates greater passion and drive.
Celebrations are an important part of victory. It is not simply an event that says “we did it” but more importantly is a pressure release valve and the ignition for the next BHAG. As you do your victory dance, think about the next BHAG on the horizon. Present each BHAG to the team with a bit of intrigue, a challenge, and draw your players into proposing paths to victory. Momentum driven by the achievement of your BHAGs makes a company hard to compete against.
Follow our blog series this month for ideas, examples and stories of BHAGs, achieved, failed and celebrated. To help you get started, you will find an article in our download center titled: Strategic Thinking: Ventures Outside the Box.