What’s a BHAG (and why is it important)?

Today’s guest post is from Robert A. Rudzki, President of Greybeard Advisors LLC, who has (co-) authored a number of acclaimed business books, including Beat the Odds: Avoid Corporate Death and Build a Resilient Enterprise, On-Demand Supply Management, and the just published text on Next Level Supply Management Excellence that is a follow up to the now-classic Straight to the Bottom Line.

In the classic leadership book Built to Last (James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras), the concept of BHAG was introduced. A BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is a common element among long-lasting, successful companies and organizations. A BHAG engages people. It is tangible, energizing and highly focused. People “get it” right away; it takes little or no explanation. President Kennedy’s pronouncement that “We will land a man on the moon” is a famous example of a BHAG that literally captured the minds and hearts of an entire nation.
On a similar note, management guru C.K. Prahalad tells executives to think big. “Set ambitious goals and then figure out how to mobilize the resources to achieve them — rather than the other way around. Most companies limit themselves because they focus primarily on what they believe they can afford.”

Do you have a BHAG for your supply management organization? If not, you should. It’s a valuable component of an overall transformation plan.

What about so-called SMART goals, a concept many companies have adopted? SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. There is not necessarily a conflict between BHAG and SMART goals. Think about it this way: BHAGs are often at the department or company level, provide overall guidance and excitement, and typically are multi-year endeavors. SMART goals help translate the overarching BHAG into near-term goals on a personal level.

BHAG and SMART: important elements in the arsenal of a good leader.

Note: part of this column was excerpted from Chapter 1 of the book Next Level Supply Management Excellence by Robert Rudzki and Robert Trent.

Thanks, Bob.