Why Big Hairy Audacious Goals are not enough?

April 28, 2011

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) has been around for some time.  The notion of the BHAG was first put forward by two James Collins and  Jerry Porras in their 1996 article Building Your Company’s Vision. A BHAG, as defined by Collins and Porras, aims to encourage companies to set “…an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future.”  BHAGs can help provide a single focal point that acts as a catalyst for a company’s (and its employees) actions.

However, BHAGs on their own are not enough. In fact, the fact that they appear to be so daunting (or they would not be a BHAG) can create the fear of failure in employees, leading to a paralysis of action.  If the goal is seen as so large, and far away, as to be unachievable, it can act as a demotivator – the opposite effect of what a BHAG is supposed to achieve.

How can an organisation overcome this?  In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Bob Sutton argues that BHAGs can be too obvious, too blunt (to direct immediate performance) and too daunting.  Bob outlines the need for a company’s leadership to break the BHAG into small steps – a series of actions that can be taken to drive organisation activity towards achieving the BHAG.

A good boss does have to set out the strategic vision for the organisation.  But they must also “help them see what they can and must accomplish right now”.  Once employees see the quick wins, they will begin to believe that the BHAG is achievable and fear will turn to motivation and action.

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Why action is the tool to achieving success

April 10, 2011

Why take a decision when you can be held responsible for failure?  Why stick your head above the parapet when you might get it shot off?  Why lead when you might not be followed?  When  we are in a world where the spotlight is ever increasing, why would any person put themselves in the limelight?

Rossabeth Moss Kanter, the Harvard change guru, writes in the Harvard Business Review that any action, no matter how small, can contribute to the saving of a company while inaction leads – or contributes – to a slow death. “Companies heading downhill have passive cultures. Unmade decisions pile up. Opportunities are lost. No one wants to risk making a mistake.”  Kanter, however, believes that there are 4 reasons why any action is better than none.

1. Small Wins Matter – because they lead the way to bigger wins

2. Accomplishments come in pieces – every step brings you closer to achieving your goals

3. Perfection is unattainable anyway – so just do it anyway. If you fail, you can try again.

4. Actions produce energy and momentum – action is motivating and encourages you to continue