‘We did it!’
This was the subject line of an email I recently received from the CEO of my longest standing business client. There was no copy, just an attachment of the one page BHAG Vision Statement for his business that we created 3 years ago. We’d rented a small meeting room and, with his young, green leadership team, painted a detailed picture of what we thought the business could become in just 36 months. It was titled One Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal …… ABC Co DATELINE July 2018
I replied to the email.
‘This actually raised a small tear in me my friend.
Whilst we didn't know exactly how we were going to get there, the power of looking up, daring to dream, to think bigger and having the courage (and audacity) to put all this on paper and put it out there....... well fortune favours the brave.
Well done. I am very proud of you and of playing some small part in turning this page of dreams into a reality.
WELL BLOODY DONE YOU for having the courage to THINK. DO. BE bigger’
Do you dare to dream?
I don’t claim that the BHAG Vision, or the process, or me specifically created the enormous growth in this business - which has recently moved into amazing new offices, won cultural awards and is currently in the process of preparing for a very profitable sale. What I can say is that the CEO’s appetite for moving beyond last-year-plus-a-bit thinking, to set a vision that was both exciting and scary was critical ……… and rare.
Most businesses I come across don’t do this well. Their leaders are so stuck in the day-to-day that they forget to look up. They fail to ask and answer the question – “where are we going?”
Playing safe can be anything but
From a risk-management level this is poor. How do we ensure that there’s a future to move into if we don’t continually scan the environment and ask, “what’s really going on?” The pin-up boys of this corporate myopia are Kodak and Blockbuster, but there are many others sleepwalking into the future.
Similarly, the failure to take the time to think big means that we miss opportunities. The business I mention has expanded its core business, but also taken advantage of strategic acquisitions and pivots that were completely unforseen when we set the vision. Lucky? No. It’s the result of mapping out and then doing the work to make that vision a reality. A vision that seeks growth opportunities and is open to new ideas, revenue streams, collaborations and markets.
My BHAG Vision-setting process is based on the work of UK entrepreneur Mike Harrison. It:
1. Sets out a compelling, stretching and audacious vision of what the business will have achieved in 3 years time
2. Works backwards from the vision to create a concrete set of actions needed to make it a reality
Goals are out-of-reach, but not out of sight.
The whole point of creating a BHAG Vision is to build a dynamic force that will continually pull the business ‘up’ so that it expects and ultimately achieves more. Goals should be uncomfortably stretching, but not absurd. E.g. doubling revenue in 3 years, not becoming bigger that Google!
Not just a fuzzy motherhood aspiration
The vision statement is comprised of the answers to very specific questions (a process that I facilitate to ensure we leave the corporate comfort zone well and truly behind).
These questions create clear and measurable metrics across a range of areas, from financials to culture. They include.
1. OVER-ARCHING VISION –
A. Where will ABC co be in 3 years time?
B. How will we be described by our customers and the market?
C. What is the value proposition that distinguishes us?
A. What market share will we have?
B. How much profit?
C. How many people
D. What products and services will we offer?
A. What human capital capabilities will we have developed?
B. What technology will we need?
A. What do we need to measure?
Create intelligent insights
Finally we list all of the reasons that our vision will not work – and then turn solving them into strategic objectives (Harris calls these ‘intelligent insights’).
Do you know where you’re going to?
I facilitate the BHAG Vision process with many clients each year. Whatever their size, the results are always positive and a check-in session every 90 days holds everyone accountable to ensuring that we continue to move towards the BHAG goals (and don’t just lost in the noise of ‘business as usual’ – which is the default position of most organisations).
In the words of leadership guru Diana Ross!
Do you know where you're going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to, do you know?
Find out more
If you’d like to put this process to work in your business – big or small – drop me a line.