Unveiling the Power of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs): A Guide to Transformation


Discover the profound impact of big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) as we delve into their origins, purpose, and categories. Coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, BHAGs are long-term, audacious objectives that inspire organizations and teams. This comprehensive guide explores how BHAGs energize creativity, drive innovation, and lead to extraordinary achievements. Learn about their benefits, types, and real-world examples from SpaceX to Google. Dive deep into the differences between corporate vision and BHAGs and understand why BHAGs are the catalysts for groundbreaking success.

Unveiling the power of big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs)

In the world of corporate strategy, there exists a concept that has the potential to ignite profound transformations within organizations, steering them towards remarkable success. This concept is none other than the big hairy audacious goal, affectionately known as BHAG. Coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their seminal book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” BHAGs have emerged as powerful instruments for inspiring action, fueling innovation, and achieving audacious dreams.

BHAG (pronounced bee hag) represents a clear and compelling long-term target that organizations aspire to reach. Unlike ordinary goals, BHAGs possess an alluring quality that captures the collective imagination of an entire organization, rallying its members behind a common purpose. They serve as lighthouses guiding companies through the turbulent seas of competition, propelling them towards uncharted territories of success.

The origin of BHAGs

The birth of BHAGs can be traced back to the visionary minds of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. In their extensive study of 18 enduring companies, documented in “Built to Last,” they unearthed the unique practices that set these companies apart from their peers. One of these practices was the cultivation of BHAGs—bold, daring, and transformative goals.

A standout example of a BHAG can be found in President John F. Kennedy’s historic declaration in 1961: “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” This audacious statement propelled the United States to achieve an extraordinary feat—the moon landing in 1969. It exemplifies the power of a BHAG in inspiring action, spurring innovation, and uniting people behind a common purpose.

Collins further refined the concept of BHAGs by outlining specific criteria for their creation. These criteria are vital to ensure that BHAGs are not merely wishful thinking but actionable and achievable objectives. To qualify as a BHAG, a goal should have a time frame of at least ten years and a reasonable chance of success, ideally exceeding 50%. It must also be action-oriented and, above all, exhilarating.

The purpose and impact of BHAGs

A BHAG serves as a North Star for organizations, guiding them through the darkness of uncertainty. It offers a clear and compelling vision that transcends the mundane, capturing the hearts and minds of employees. Unlike quarterly targets or lengthy mission statements, BHAGs possess a unique power to excite and energize individuals, transforming them into passionate advocates of a shared vision.

The litmus test of a true BHAG lies in its ability to stimulate forward progress, create momentum, and set people’s creative juices flowing. When individuals find a BHAG stimulating, exciting, and adventurous, they become willing to channel their creative talents and human energies into its pursuit. It becomes the rallying cry that motivates teams to stretch beyond their comfort zones, challenge the status quo, and embark on journeys of innovation.

Types of BHAGs

BHAGs come in various forms, each tailored to the unique circumstances and ambitions of an organization. They can be broadly categorized into four main types:

Role model BHAG

This type of BHAG seeks to emulate the success of a well-known company. While this approach has been somewhat overused, with many companies aiming to be the “Uber” of their industry, it remains a valuable source of inspiration. Role model BHAGs encourage organizations to learn from the best and set their sights on achieving similar greatness.

Common enemy BHAG

A BHAG in this category is centered around overtaking competitors. Organizations adopting this approach aim to surpass the top players in their industry, channeling their energies into outperforming rivals. It fosters a spirit of healthy competition and drives relentless efforts towards industry dominance.

Targeting BHAG

Targeting BHAGs involve setting specific objectives, often with quantifiable metrics. These objectives could range from becoming a billion-dollar company to securing the top position in the industry. Targeting BHAGs provide clarity of purpose, guiding organizations towards measurable achievements.

Internal transformation BHAG

Larger, established corporations often utilize internal transformation BHAGs to remain competitive. These goals focus on revitalizing employees and business strategies, ensuring that the organization continues to evolve and adapt in a rapidly changing business landscape.

Real-world examples of BHAGs

The impact of BHAGs extends beyond corporate boardrooms; they resonate with people far beyond the confines of the organizations that set them. Here are some notable examples:

  • SpaceX: SpaceX’s BHAG is to “enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.” This audacious goal has captured international attention, sparking enthusiasm for the possibilities of interplanetary colonization.
  • Meta (formerly Facebook): Meta has set several BHAGs, including “making the world more open and connected” and “giving everyone the power to share anything with anyone.” These BHAGs have shaped the company’s transformative impact on social connectivity.
  • Google: Google’s BHAG is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This ambitious vision has guided Google in becoming a global information powerhouse.

These examples showcase how BHAGs can captivate imaginations, inspire action, and drive organizations to achieve what once seemed unattainable.

Why are BHAGs useful?

The value of a BHAG lies in its ability to provide a long-term goal that is both comprehensible and inspiring to everyone within an organization. Unlike quarterly targets or verbose mission statements, a BHAG shifts the focus to the bigger picture. It excites and energizes individuals in a way that conventional goals cannot. When executed successfully, a BHAG becomes the cornerstone for remarkable achievements, anchoring the organization’s aspirations and ambitions.

Differentiating corporate vision and BHAG

While both corporate vision and BHAG serve as guiding principles, they differ significantly in terms of boldness and daring. Corporate vision tends to be more realistic and achievable, with broad consensus that the goals outlined can be reasonably realized. In contrast, BHAGs are riskier and bolder, akin to moonshots with a degree of uncertainty. However, if they succeed, BHAGs can be truly groundbreaking, pushing organizations to reach unprecedented heights of innovation and transformation.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • 1. Inspires innovation and creativity.
  • 2. Unites teams behind a common vision.
  • 3. Motivates individuals to stretch beyond their comfort zones.
  • 4. Provides a clear and compelling long-term direction.
    • 1. Risk of failure due to audacious nature.
    • 2. Potential for demotivation if not carefully crafted.
    • 3. Requires continuous alignment with evolving organizational goals.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a BHAG and a regular goal?

A BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) differs from a regular goal in its scope, audacity, and ability to inspire. While regular goals are often short-term and incremental, BHAGs are long-term, audacious, and have the power to unite an entire organization behind a common purpose.

How can an organization create an effective BHAG?

Creating an effective BHAG involves setting a clear, inspiring, and ambitious long-term goal that aligns with the organization’s mission and values. It should have a reasonable chance of success, a time frame of at least ten years, and be action-oriented to motivate teams.

What are some examples of BHAGs in non-profit organizations?

BHAGs are not exclusive to for-profit organizations. Non-profit organizations can set BHAGs that align with their mission. For example, a non-profit focused on eradicating hunger could set a BHAG to “end hunger in our community within a decade.”

Can a BHAG change over time?

Yes, BHAGs can evolve as organizations grow and circumstances change. It’s important to periodically review and adapt BHAGs to ensure they remain relevant and motivating.

Are BHAGs only for large corporations?

No, BHAGs can be beneficial for organizations of all sizes, including startups and small businesses. The key is to set a BHAG that stretches the organization’s capabilities and inspires action.

Key takeaways

  • BHAGs, or Big Hairy Audacious Goals, are compelling, long-term objectives that inspire organizations and teams to take action.
  • Coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, BHAGs serve as powerful drivers of innovation, creativity, and progress.
  • A BHAG should stimulate forward progress, create momentum, and ignite enthusiasm among team members.
  • There are four main categories of BHAGs: Role Model, Common Enemy, Targeting, and Internal Transformation, each tailored to an organization’s unique goals.
  • Real-world examples of BHAGs include SpaceX’s mission to enable human exploration and settlement of Mars, Meta’s vision to make the world more open and connected, and Google’s goal to organize the world’s information.
  • BHAGs are not limited to large corporations and can benefit organizations of all sizes by providing a clear, inspiring direction.
  • Distinguishing BHAGs from regular goals is their audacious nature, ability to unite teams, and potential for groundbreaking success.
  • Effective BHAGs have a time frame of at least ten years, a reasonable chance of success, and an action-oriented focus.
  • BHAGs can evolve as organizations grow and should be periodically reviewed to ensure continued relevance and motivation.
View article sources
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  2. Big Hairy Audacious Goals – National Library of Medicine
  3. Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal – NC State University
  4. Going to the moon in health care: medicine’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – PubMed