1 impacting big hairy and audacious goal for a better life or business

A big hairy audacious goal for a better life or business

Dream something so big it scares you

Dream something so big it scares you

What do you dream of doing, if everything went well, if you had all the resources in the world? What would you do? , what would your business look like? The answer to these questions place you well on the path to describing your “Bee Hag” (BHAG-Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.
— John D. Rockefeller

BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) are the big thoughts you have in your mind. These are the goals that excite you, scare you and energize your spirit.

The birth of the BHAG came from the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James Collins and Jerry Porras. These ideas have been already created or adopted by many companies across the world with significant impact.


Political: - Kennedy’s speech about putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

Everest the highest of the 8000 m peaks

Everest the highest of the 8000 m peaks

Personal: - Alan Hinkes OBE – To climb all mountains higher than 8000m on the planet

Twitter social media leader

Twitter social media leader

Business: - Twitter: To become the pulse of the planet

Example of BHAG thinking on an industry wide scale

Over the past 5years we have witnessed some fantastic changes to the way we transact with money and even consider what money is. Today there are many mobile app solutions available and retailers accepting a range of payment services beyond cash and standard credit cards. The rise of Fintech has been the catalyst for significant change.

Bitcoin cryptocurrency

Bitcoin cryptocurrency

One BHAG example is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a new cryptocurrency recognized by USA and EU regions as legitimate currency. The goal of bitcoin has been to decentralize money. This bold BHAG goal has sent waves across the financial markets to change what and how we deal with the value of money.

The difference between SMART goals and BHAG.

The SMART goals method is (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time bound) – at JAMSO we use SMARTER with includes Ethical/Enjoyable and Rewarding/Reviewed. The focus with SMARTER goals is how they need to be attainable and realistic.

Your BHAG is a goal, which may not be known if possible at all, due to resources and technology levels at the time. Indeed, BHAG goals are often scaled with a level of ambition that can take 10-30 years to complete. Your BHAG should have a 50-70% chance of success feeling, at the time of its creation and design.

The focus of your BHAG needs to be surrounding the urgent call to action and knowledge it will be an arduous difficult goal that has a high probability of success combined with a significant risk it may not.

Big goals and big motivation

The use of BHAG can capture the imagination and inspiration in a workforce. Imagine a workforce that provides every effort possible is made to complete tasks fully and swiftly so the pursuit of their large goal becomes closer. The development of haste and work pave through a continued sense of urgency can be a fantastic and inspiring place to work.

Note of caution: Do not create a BHAG unless your business is willing to support it fully with the level of intensity, resources, passion and priority needed. Failure to address these points will demotivate staff and the leadership will lose credibility. There is no point in creating a BHAG just to look good; it needs to be followed through with real determination and action.

I think the whole entrepreneurial mindset is infused with a BHAG perspective.
— James Collins

The characteristics of a great BHAG leader.

A great leader is more focused on daily energy required to retain a clear vision, focus and purpose in their actions to attain the goal.

  1. Patience and a feeling of been humble plus been prepared to make mistakes and learn from them.

  2. Understands that “comfortable” is the wrong feeling and place to be.

  3. High desire and enthusiasm to learn and seek new knowledge

  4. Your behavior becomes a mirror of the values implied within the BHAG

Do not hide from ambition

Do not hide from ambition

The great benefits of creating a BHAG

Common and clear goal. From that goal each person can set their personally aligned values and ambitions to it. This will help inspire many people at work or in your social circle to also create their own BHAG which then is the start of a true “work hard/play hard” organization and lifestyle.

  1. Quality, relevance, productivity, process and analysis are revisited at high frequency levels to assure speed and improvements are made.

  2. Collaboration is improved not just within your business but through your full supply chain and even customers and market when clear proactive communication channels are created.

  3. New skills are developed and created. The adoption of new techniques and ideas are encouraged to accelerate the momentum of progress and thus new skills are born on a personal level and throughout a business.

Key skills maturity

Key skills maturity

The BHAG Framework

At the base of every BHAG are the core values. These are the values that are more important that the goal. These are the values that you hold as absolute truths for your world. This can include business areas such as environmental, diversity, equality etc. or/and on a personal level your social, political, spiritual values.

  1. From your values you can then agree on your purpose in life. From a business or personal level these are the very reasons for your existence and creation.

  2. A strategic vision is then created to understand the approach to fulfilling and living out your values and purpose.

  3. The BHAG is the measurable and accountability that is kept for you or your business to attain and fulfill its vision. Over the course of several decades you may have several BHAGs but your purpose and values remain unchanged.

  4. The BHAG will only be realized if followed with strong program initiatives. These are important for the shorter and near term actions to understand actions, budgets, resources and risks needed for consideration and implementation.

  5. On an operational level, each process and person should then be responsible and accountable for helping bring the clear tasks forward to completion.

The difference between a hero and a fool is success

Dealing with goal failure

A big failure

A big failure

Dealing with doubt and cynicism with BHAG’s is a major obstacle for people at a personal level. No one wants to be ridiculed by their friends, family or peer as a failure. This very fear is what stops many people and companies from achieving their greatness and full potential.

In the USA, it is more acceptable within the culture to be seen to fail on one goal and then try another. Other cultures are more conservative and therefore their ambition levels and achievements reflect this. Imagine the technical excellence of the German nation and a full willingness to see failure as a positive experience!

JAMSO Founder James Doyle Case Study:

Jogging shoes

Jogging shoes

I set a BHAG of running a half marathon in under 2 hours. For many people this may not be a BHAG, however for me it is. I am not a natural runner, have not run for several decades and never been part of a running club.

After 18months I have ran the distance but not the time. I am currently in treatment with both legs for Achilles tendon issues. However my desire to complete my goal remains. I have also learned from the mistakes I made in my preparation and training.  

I know that several people in the local community may think I stopped the goal and “failed” because they are not seeing me run. However I see my running shoes and clothes every day to remind me what I am going to progress towards after my recovery is complete.

Key elements of setting a BHAG

There are certain elements that create a great BHAG. The elements should connect and be able to be understood not just by the person creating the BHAG but also be anyone that reads it. The grand scale and visionary aspects of your goal should shine through and be able to become associated with your personality or brand. Your BHAG should contain the each of the key areas below.

Aligned: Your values should be the underpinning of your goal. These are the basic values you hold as a person or business. The very foundation stone of what makes your ethical and moral positions.

Audacious and clear: Be very specific with the goal in a way that stretches the capabilities of possibility and yet be clearly understood. The goal should surprise, startle and shock yourself and others with its potential impact but in a clear way.

Compelling: You need to inspire and create action from the goal. Motivation should be sought through the design of your BHAG. There needs to be the vision strong enough to understand an element of hope and extraordinary effort will be required. The natural curiosity of high performers will be drawn to your goal.

Actioned: Bold action and patience is needed to generate continued momentum for your goal. This should be implied and measurable within the structure of your goal. The performance of achievement should always be measured back to the original expected outcome.



4 Types of BHAG

The structure of your BHAG can be created within 4 different types of expected outcomes. The design of your BHAG will cover one of these. It is OK to create more than one BHAG however pure clarity and focus is needed so I suggest select your highest impact BHAG first.

  1. Beacon: Your BHAG can be created to place you or your business as a clear leader and beacon of excellence and influence in your chosen field.

  2. Targeted: A clear target can be created, for instance “eradicate all forms of cancer from the planet by 2070”.

  3. Transformational: Example from a large multinational business could be “we will make each business site agile and innovative with a family spirit”

  4. Competitive: Example: I will be faster than Usain Bolt at every race.

Key Take-Aways with BHAG

Great wall of China

Great wall of China

When we look back through history there are many examples of Big Hairy Audacious Goals been created and leaving the world mystified and inspired for generations to come. From the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China, Christopher Columbus sailing or the first pioneers who reached the poles we have examples. BHAG creates and stimulates a mindset of possibilities in the human spirit.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

The desire and willingness to take action and be in the moment whilst recognizing the need to overcome fear so you’re present and future can be improved to its full potential. The needs to be a willingness to take a challenge and fight it at all odds. For this reason I have huge respect for people like Elon Musk in today’s generation, Nelson Mandela and whistleblowers who knowingly risk everything except their values.

Black belt mastery

Black belt mastery

We decide the value of items most often through their perceived difficulty of achievement.

A martial artist with a Black Belt deserves the credit and respect for the time they have spent to gain their grades. BHAGs help transform performance in business and people. It reminds us that we all have the same basic human power potential and it is up to us as individuals and organizations to decide if and how we wish to use it.

  • I hope you now create your own BHAG and never stop asking yourself or your business the questions that challenge you.

With your new BHAG let me know how you feel it will take you out of your comfort zone, help unify your personality and/business and generate accountability.

Written by James Doyle –Founder of JAMSO

JAMSO helps people and companies with their goal setting, goal management and metrics. JAMSO supports through extensive knowledge and use of Metrics and KPI design linked to solid business intelligence solutions using the best tool in analytics.

Further Reading and Reference

Leah Busque: Have Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals And Take Baby Steps

The famous Alan Watts talk extract. Inspiration for your BHAG what do you desire.