In the first year and a half of his presidency Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th President, was able to have enacted four major pieces of legislation of his vision branded The New Freedom. These included major tariff reform, and the establishment of the Federal Trade Commission and what serves today as the Federal Reserve and central banking system.
At the conclusion of these victories in June, 2014, 18 months after his inauguration, Wilson said, “there is nothing that succeeds in life like boldness, provided you believe you are on the right side.”
Eighty years later in 1994 in the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras suggest something termed the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (known as BHAG for short, pronounced BEE-hag), which offers a framework for companies to incorporate Wilson’s concept of boldness into the workplace.
A few weeks ago in facilitating a strategic planning session with the board of directors of one of the larger not-for-profit agencies in my area, we introduced the concept of the BHAG.
It truly changed the conversation and the focus of the entire board retreat.
The executive director of the agency embraced it and really went for it. He proclaimed his BHAG is to turn the agency’s funding sources upside down so that it can become self-sufficient within five years and relying on virtually no governmental funding.
For 20-years this agency has subsisted on 98% of its funding from government sources, but in this new economy those resources are starting to wither away. The ED knows the agency is going to have to become more entrepreneurial.
At this agency, only ten-percent of the board of directors are business people and could be considered entrepreneurial. The rest are former government employees, educators and academics, and some consumers of the agency’s services. They were understandably skeptical of the capabilities of the agency to achieve this BHAG.
The power of the BHAG’s boldness is its ability to force people to think differently and to begin project assets and strengths onto opportunities in new ways, never before considered.
BHAGs work for individuals, too, and are a great way to build a personal brand.
Boldness backed by self-belief, with activity to back it up, is extremely attractive.
In mid-2012 my business coach challenged me to set a BHAG for my business, which was to double my company’s revenue for 2013, I’m excited to report that as of July 31st I am on pace to do just that.
BHAGs are usually longer-term goals. Collins & Porras offer them as 10-30 year visions but also say there can be shorter, interim BHAGs to generate focus along the way.
So, let me encourage you to do just that. Let’s set a 10-year BHAG and an interim BHAG for the year-end 2014.
If you were going to be truly bold, more bold than you’ve ever been, what is something you would aspire to for year-end 2023, just 10-years away?
Then, let’s set an interim BHAG for year-end 2014, just 16 months from now.
Let us all take the advice of America’s 28th president and bring more boldness to our approach from this day forward.