Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Whether you’re starting a company, or need a reset, you need to discover your BHAG!

Firstly, what is a BHAG?

BHAG is an acronym made up from the authors of the bestseller “Built to Last”. It stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and quite simply describes a goal that may be out of our reach at present but, if everyone at your company (even if it’s just you for now) believes in it and puts effort behind it, it will become a reality.

The story behind BHAGs.

In the late ’50s, the American government was concerned that the Soviets were winning the space race. So, early in JFK’s administration, he announced that the Americans would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. People were understandably mind-blown – how would this ever be accomplished? But scientists, politicians, manufacturers, and other stakeholders rallied around bringing this goal to life. And sure enough, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon on the 20th of July 1969. America had achieved its BHAG.

Types of BHAGs which will guide you.

These are the 4 categories of BHAGs Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote about in “Built to Last”:

1. Target-Oriented BHAG.

Here you can either set quantitative (numerical) or qualitative goals. There are shortcomings to this BHAG though – if you set a revenue target, ensure that it is one that thrills and excites your team, rather than one that is daunting and unachievable. Collins and Porras wrote, “The envisioned future should be so exciting in its own right that it would continue to keep the organization motivated even if the leaders who set the goal disappeared.”

More qualitative goals ensure you should have a tangible measurement in place, so you know when you’ve hit your goal (for example, signing up 5000 people to your newsletter).


  • Become a $125 billion company by the year 2000 (Wal-Mart, 1990).
  • Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age (Boeing, 1950).

2. Competitive BHAG.

This is what brings your team together to beat a large competitor in your industry and can be extremely motivating for staff. Obviously with this type of BHAG the industry you’re in needs to have a clear leader whose customers you are chasing.


  • Crush Adidas. (Nike, 1960s)
  • We will destroy Yamaha! (Honda, 1970s)

3. Role Model BHAG.

This is for up-and-coming companies who aspire to be like the great companies in their industry. In this category, you need to think of the ways you want your company to be great.


  • Become the Nike of the cycling industry. (Giro Sport Design, 1986).
  • Become as respected in 20 years as Hewlett-Packard is today. (Watkins-Johnson, 1996).

4. Internal Transformation BHAG.

This category is better for more established companies (like Apple) and is for divisions within the company who aim to change the way they function within an organization to shift the trajectory of the company.


  • Transform this company from a chemical manufacturer into one of the preeminent drug-making companies in the world. (Merck, 1930s)

Whatever type of BHAG you choose, remember that the underlying driver is to create a passion within your team, and this enthusiasm will drive your company to success!