Your BHAG Journey (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal)


BHAG is a concept developed in the book Built to Last. A BHAG (pronounced “Bee Hag,” short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”) is a powerful way to stimulate progress. A BHAG is clear and compelling, needing little explanation; people get it right away. Think of the NASA moon mission of the 1960s. The best BHAGs require both building for the long term AND exuding a relentless sense of urgency: What do we need to do today, with monomaniacal focus, and tomorrow, and the next day, to defy the probabilities and ultimately achieve our BHAG?

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Creating Your BHAG

Creating your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) as Jim Collins describes and shares, is an iterative process. It rarely is achieved in a few meetings, or without completing several very important milestones for your business. Included in these are these three elements of your Hedgehog Concept: Core PurposeProfit Per X and Brand Promise.

Determining your BHAG is the intersection of the three circles of your Hedgehog Concept.



In Good to Great Jim Collins noted, “It took about four years on average for the good-to-great companies to clarify their Hedgehog Concepts. Like scientific insight, a Hedgehog Concept simplifies a complex world and makes decisions much easier. But while it has crystalline clarity and elegant simplicity once you have it, getting the concept can be devilishly difficult and takes time. Recognize that getting a Hedgehog Concept is an inherently iterative process, not an event. The essence of the process is to get the right people engaged in vigorous dialogue and debate, infused with the brutal facts and guided by questions formed by the three circles.”

Note Collins mention of the word iterative. It requires repetition. One effort at your BHAG without the effort to determine the following questions and you’re not going to get much out of the exercise.

  • Do we really understand what we can be the best in the world at, as distinct from what we can just be successful at?
  • Do we really understand the drivers in our economic engine, including our economic denominator?
  • Do we really understand what best ignites our passion?

On the One Page Strategic Plan you’ll discover we help you identify the answers to each of these three questions, by including entry points for Core Purpose, Brand Promise, Profit Per X and of course BHAG.

Best In The World – Brand Promise

Your Brand Promise identifies what you feel you can be best in the world at.  The discovery of your Brand Promise requires a lot of effort, time, and research. Positioning Systems has a process to help customers discover their Brand Promise. The obstacle here is few businesses have really given thought to what makes their business distinct, or as Robert Bloom notes in The Inside Advantage, uncommon. Working through your Inside Advantage goes a long way to discovering your Brand Promise.  Yet there’s still a significant amount of work once you discover your WHAT (uncommon advantage).

Once you’ve identified your Uncommon Advantage you still need to determine if this is truly what your customer needs, and then does a competitor in your market already own this position? Are they first to market with your customers? Discovering your customer needs is the first step in building your Brand Promise. The next step is to determine what you are best at. Again if your competitor is better, or is already identified with what your best at, you need to establish your advantage, and choose something you can be best in the world to offer what your customer really needs.

Finally, you need to measure your results.  Your Brand Promise must be measured. Look at Rackspace as an example provided in Seven Strata of Strategy – Brand Promise.

Economic Denominator – Profit Per X

Many businesses believe they know this. Again, this is an iterative process which requires much more digging into your financials than most business are willing to invest time in. As offered in Find Your Economic Denominator Profit per X,  “Without this insight, would Walgreens have ever had the audacity to put nine stores within one square mile of each other as they’ve done in San Francisco?”

One of my former customers discovered his profit per X. By putting his emphasis on this element of his business he’s been able to grow and expand his business exponentially putting his managers and staff in a position to focus on customers in a manner that they’d not done in the past. The result has been growth and expansion in an industry that is been stagnant for many years nationwide.

Passion – Core Purpose

Defining who you are as a person and a business demands you identify this.  If you’ve not viewed Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on the value of Core Purpose, watch it now.

Simon Sinek on stage at TED2014, The Next Chapter, Session 11 – Unstressed, March 17-21, 2014, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash

Passion/Purpose provides the energy to accomplish great things. None of these happen overnight.  A business coach will provide you with the tools and experience to help you identify these and ultimately help you determine your BHAG. Even if you didn’t need help identifying these, you probably need help being accountable to the practice of identifying these as well as why they can be critical to your growth.

You do want to be great, don’t you?

My good friend, Doug Wick – Gazelles Coach in Cedar Rapids Iowa is the author of this insightful article.





Ted Bonel – Strategy & Execution Advisors

About Strategy & Execution

We have been providing organisations and their leaders with facilitation support and executive education focused on strategy development & strategy execution for more than 20 years. We support organisations seeking to create or refine excellent strategies and execute them quickly and effectively.

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