A BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL (BHAG) is one of the simplest and most powerful concepts I have ever come across.
It’s been a year since we set our BHAG at SolarAid. Our BHAG is simply to “Eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by the end of the decade”. Certainly audacious for an aspiring social enterprise. So what has happened since we set that goal? Has it made a difference and if so how?
It’s impact has been transformational.
To begin with, the BHAG engages people I share it with – it excites them. It has changed the dynamic of meetings when we mention the BHAG. Major supporters have commented on how they like it. Clear and simple. It helps create a conversation. “How are you going to do that? What’s so bad about the kerosene lamp anyway?”
When they buy into the BHAG and why its so important, it gives people outside of SolarAid a sense of purpose to help us and has set them loose in all sorts of ways to help us achieve this goal. In effect it has swelled our capacity.
Internally it is helping us strategically. We even stopped a major programme of work because it was suddenly clear it wouldn’t help achieve the BHAG. Our narrative is starting to feel more joined up . It has got us all behind one goal, which in turn has helped align communications. It has helped us in our planning – asking what is each team doing to achieve the BHAG? In Zambia they have even painted the goal on their office wall to remind them every day of our mission goal.
A year ago when we set it you could sense a bit of nervousness. Now you can sense the belief. It really could be done. But to do it we know we will need to work in collaboration, form partnerships, be bold.
And this is the bit that really excites me. It gives us a goal which in turn will need a strategy of how to get there and a plan to deliver it (and of course the funds we require). We can involve people, including funders and major supporters, in helping us determine that strategy and share with them what we need to deliver our plan. And of course we can share our aspiration with people who support us. We will need them to advocate and spread the word if we are going to do this. We need them.
That’s a great message to say to anyone – “You Matter” (Read and watch the TED talk by Angel Maiers) and it goes far beyond extracting a donation. A BHAG could be the most important tool in a fundraisers kit bag.
Still not convinced? Read Steve Andrew’s blog, SolarAid’s CEO, on the impact the BHAG has had in SolarAid : “Is a bee-hag the most important management tool ever?”. When confronted with a problem he will often say “What does the BHAG demand?”. More often than not the answer is obvious.
And I couldn’t agree more with this observation from a blog called innovateonpurpose : “A BHAG will force people to think differently and work differently”. It really is making us all think – “how the hell will we do this?” – every week.
God what if we all had BHAGS?!