Thursday, October 17, 2013

Built to Last (6): Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Had read "Built to Last" since a while; and realized that it's not just about building a company that would last for couple decades, but also it's about building a "Personality" & a "Nation" that could last for decades as well.

So, I thought I should keep some notes/excerpts...

Part 1: The Best of The Best
Part 2: Clock Building, Not Time Telling
Part 3: No "Tyranny of The OR" (Embrace The "Genius of The AND")
Part 4: More Than Profits
Part 5: Preserve The Core / Stimulate Progress

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"Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory, nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1899

All companies have goals. But there is a difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge - like a big mountain to climb.

Like a moon mission, a true Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effirts - often creating immense 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.

A BHAG engages people - it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused. People "get it" right away; it takes little or no explanation.

It's not just the presence of a goal that stimulate progress,  it is also the level of commitment to the goal. Indeed, a goal cannot be classified as a BHAG without a high level of commitment to the goal.

Here are a few key take-away points you might want to keep in mind as you consider BHAGs for your own organization:
  • A BHAG should be so clear and compelling that it requires little or no explanation. Remember, a BHAG is a goal - like climbing a mountain or going to moon - not a "statement."  If it doesn't get people's juices going, then it's not a BHAG.
  • A BHAG should fall well outside the comfort zone. People in the organization should have reason to believe they can pull it off, yet it should require heroic effort and perhaps even a little luck.
  • A BHAG should be so bold and exciting in its own right that it would continue to stimulate progress even if the organization's leaders disappeared before it had been completed.
  • A BHAG has the inherent danger that, once achieved, an organization can stall and drift in the "we've arrived" syndrome. A company should be prepared to prevent this by having follow-on BHAGs. 
  • Finally, and most important at all, a BHAG should be consistent with a company's core ideology. 
 BHAGs alone do not make a visionary company. Indeed, progress alone - no matter  what the mechanism used to stimulate progress - doesn't make a visionary company. A company should be careful to preserve its core while pursuing BHAGs

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