Linda Goldstein Consulting

Redefine BHAG to Achieve Big Goals

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I once knew a CEO who was fond of BHAGs — big, hairy, audacious goals.

He encouraged his employees to think bigger. He prodded them to fill strategic plans with one BHAG after another.

Then, he asked me why those plans collected dust.

Because, I told him, there’s a difference between “audacious” and “achievable.”

Those responsible for implementing plans will stall, delay, divert or flat-out quit when they think they’re pursuing something they can’t achieve. Setting the goal too high causes a person not to try at all. People will lose their motivation and quit before they even start.

Then your plan sits on a shelf.

I’m all for big thinking. Big, hairy goals? Go for it.

Just make sure those goals are achievable.

Here’s how…

  1. Conduct a more thoughtful SWOT analysis.  Take the time to discover all possible obstacles facing your team. There may be one or dozens. When all possible obstacles are addressed, you are actually left with a strategic plan, not a list of goals or a pipe dream.
  2. Hire a facilitator.  Sometimes only facilitators can get to the truth.  An unbiased third party can ask “forbidden” questions and get honest, direct feedback that some team members might be afraid to communicate to their boss.
  3. Have a more detailed action plan Define the steps needed to achieve the goal.  This will help you cull the un-achievable from the plan. It will set the stage for successfully achieving the achievable.
  4. Give people the authority to achieve the vision and goal.  Responsibility and accountability without authority is not only meaningless, it’s frustrating and demoralizing as well.

Strong leaders should still ask their employees to think big and pursue stretch goals. With the help of a planning facilitator, they can avoid those dust-collecting BHAGs and launch their organization in pursuit of big, hairy, achievable goals.


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