10 Suggestions for Setting Good BHAGs

reach for the starsGreat Leadership Lessons, Note 12
So Just How Big Are We Talking?
Big is one thing. Excessive is something else.
Audacious can be inspiring. Ridiculous is discouraging.

So just how big are we talking? How audacious? How beautiful? How challenging? How inspiring? How demanding? How much hard work is appropriate? 

And how do I know what is both realistic and also beyond what I can do on my own? How do I navigate living by confidence in knowing what I can do with some hard work and living by faith, trusting God to do more than what I can get done with my strength?

I have  a very good friend who is wrestling through these questions right now.
A few years ago when we first met, he shared with me a goal he had.
I should emphasize, it was a VERY HIGH GOAL.

At first I was impressed with this BHAG. As we talked, I asked him how much progress they had made. I was surprised by the "low amount of progress." I asked about the strategic plans that were in place to make more progress toward that goals. I was also surprised by the minimal amount of strategic thinking about the impressive BHAG. Not wanting to be negative or critical, I didn't say much more. In a recent conversation I had with my friend, we talked about the BHAG he shared years earlier. Not only has their been little more progress made, their has been regression in progress.

The BHAG now seems to be not only unrealistic, but counter-productive. Instead of being inspiring - it is daunting. Instead of being motivating - it is a weight dragging him down. 

But now - what to do about that BHAG? While it still sounds impressive, it is just no good for his organization.

Here are 10 Thoughts to Guide You in Setting Good BHAGs.

discernment about the invitations and optionsONE:  It requires much personal discernment, prayer, counsel, reflection and wrestling through the issues. 
Is my ego involved in this? What is God saying to me about it? How do I know what God is saying and what my own ego may want? Do I have any plans in place about the BHAGs I desire? How did I settle on these particular goals?

TWO:  Remember, all BHAGs need to be inspiring in a sustainable way.
If they are so far out of reach, if it is a wild dream and a "fancy goose chase" you will be discouraged by them.

THREE:  A BHAG without a strategic plan will ultimately be a dead end.
Inspiring goals and strategic plans are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, they are complementary in an essential way. All BHAGs must generate significant planning about reaching the BHAG. A BHAG without a plan is not a guiding vision but a foolish day dream.

FOUR:  Achievable and Realistic do matter.
Whenever you read about SMART goals, the themes of (1) achievable and (2) realistic are a part of the discussion. At first glance it may appear as if these themes are contradictory to inspiring, lofty BHAGoals! Well, they are not contradictory, but there is a tension. I believe the STARTING POINT goals should be ones that are indeed realistic and can be achieved by consistent hard work. When you achieve them, you can have the sense of a job well done and a good goal reached. Many of my goals are in this realm.

SMART goals

FIVE: Stretch Goals require even more from you.
While Starting Point Goals are just that, when you begin to think about Stretch Goals, you are really moving into the area of BHAGs. A Stretch Goal is bigger, harder, requires more, will be more difficult and is less realistic. They are not IMPOSSIBLE. Perhaps not even IMPROBABLE. But definitely they are really CHALLENGING. It is going to take an awful lot to reach these goals. So always ask - how much do you really want this? How much do you really believe in this? How vitally important to you are these goals? Will you live, eat, breath, obsess, love these goals and what is needed to reach them? Because Stretch Goals require such a mindset. I have just a few goals at this level. As I was writing this post, I realized I have neglected being more intentional and prayerful about this level of goals.

In the Bible, I see the story of Nehemiah and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem as a Stretch Goal. Incredible strategy would be needed as well as supreme effort.

SIX:  Faith Goals are way beyond you. 
Still, they beckon, invite and summon you. There is something compelling about them. They may be daunting...at the same time they draw you. This is where you are in that mysterious realm of faith and trust. Here is where you are in the arena of discerning what God wants to do through you that is BIGGER than you. It will use you but go WAY BEYOND you. Your best energy and effort is required but it is not SUFFICIENT. These are BHAGs that are simply God-Sized.  I had/have one BHAG that fits this category.

In the Bible, I believe the story of the Exodus is a story of such a Faith Goal. Moses would have to give his best efforts, use all his God-given strengths, and still, God would just have to show up to do Amazing Way Beyond Moses Level Things.

outside the comfort zone  the performance zone  the danger zoneSEVEN:  Fully aligned with your Mission and Values.
While this should be obvious, it still needs mentioned. Really great BHAGs are always in the service of the core mission of your organization. If a BHAG does not contribute to Mission Achieved, no matter how intriguing the BHAG is, it is not a useful one.

EIGHT:  Tie them to the organization.
Leaders, you/we really have to understand this. Your personal BHAGs must be tied to the organization. see the previous post - It is Always About the Organization. This applies to inspiring BHAGs as well. The higher you are in the organization, the more significant it is that this "tie" happens.

NINE:  There is a cost involved.
I know you know this, but it also bears repeating. BHAGs worth living for and worth leading for come with a cost. The higher the BHAG, the higher the cost, the harder the work, the more time and energy is required... and the greater the reward when accomplished.

TEN:  Constant evolution.
When you set a BHAG, it is not in stone. There should be ongoing tweaking and adjusting about BHAGs. It is not that you are creating a moving target, but rather an evolving one.  I'll go back to the story of my friend that began this post. He still has a great dream and an inspiring vision. He is still committed to a noble work that comes at a great cost. He still has impressive BHAGs. It is just that now they are (becoming) more realistic. Adjustments are being made. In my opinion, his current BHAGs are at least a Stretch Goal and perhaps (probably) a Faith Goal as well. God will still have to show up. My friend will still have to work extraordinarily hard. 

This is the last post on BHAGs. You may want to look back over the four posts on setting great goals and getting great results. That is what Great Leaders do. This is what makes for Great Organizations. 

The TAKE-AWAY from all this should be your own reflections and writings about BHAGs that you share with others.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International


LCI - Helping You Discover the BHAGs God Has For You