The 12 Gifts of 2018 – Gift 1: Defining your BHAG

Some say that New Year resolutions are quickly forgotten. But throughout 2017, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and business managers have shown over and over again that with the right support, structure and learning, your business and career-related resolutions can come to life. And, depending of course on what your specific goal is, you could make massive progress on it between now and Easter, by spending some short, highly focused time on it each week.

This is where the twelve gifts of 2018 come in. Each week I will provide you with some thinking, activities, new insights and knowledge that will help you to progress. I will provide you with a blog every Thursday to offer you some thought-provokers.

This blog is a super mini taste of my Idea Time programme, which directly supported a range of business people from all kinds of industries, businesses and backgrounds throughout the year to accomplish their goals. These included:

  • Saving tens of thousands of pounds through improved procurement and supply chain.
  • Successfully establishing several new business ventures.
  • Attaining fast-paced growth through an even higher performing team.
  • Identifying and achieving an accelerated career development plan.
  • Delivery of challenging projects on time, on budget and to standard, and satisfying the diverse needs and agendas of a varied stakeholder group.

Now it’s time to get started on your own success for 2018. Give this a go – I’d love to hear how you get on! This week’s Idea Time gift is a hands-on exercise to get you started and should take between 10-15 minutes. You will begin by getting as many of the thoughts, ideas and challenges that you have coming up onto paper so that you can see them visually and prioritise where you’d like to begin. Try to work intuitively, relax and have fun with the process. You might want to use a specific notebook or folder on your computer to keep your work so that you have it all in one place.

Top Takeaways

Here are the top takeaways for this week’s gift:

  1. For “messy” or “wicked” problems, it is important to define your BHAG (BigHairy, Audacious Goal) upfront.
  2. Setting boundaries for your BHAG and “brain dumping” your thoughts help to clear your mind so that you move towards the next stage of action.
  3. ‘Wishing” is a useful technique for opening up your thinking to challenge the status quo in a positive way.

Crucial Core

Imagine that we are at the end of the 12 Gifts of 2018 – what do you want to have achieved and gained from this programme by then? It’s time to think about your BHAG!

Some challenges have straightforward solutions: To achieve X we simply need to do Y.

But most leadership and management opportunities and issues are not so clear-cut. We could be presented with a range of options, none of which are ideal, or something around us is changing in a way that we haven’t experienced before. In the fast-moving world of work, we often have to make decisions and take action with foggy or incomplete information in situations where doing nothing is definitely not an option! In innovation terms, these are known as “messy” or “wicked” problems or opportunities.

Navigating through and delivering against these successfully is of course what we, as managers and leaders, are there to do, so the more effective we can become at it, and the greater our competence and understanding of what we intuitively process as professionals every single day at work, can add real value to personal leadership, and therefore team, performance.

So, over these 12 weeks you will be focusing on something “messy”! Your own work may be similar to the examples below, or completely different, it doesn’t  matter either  way. As long as the answer isn’t obvious or clear-cut, it’s a messy problem.

A BHAG (BigHairy, Audacious Goal) is simply a stretching, challenging and yet achievable goal that you can achieve with focus and by thinking differently. It is a statement – or question  – that concisely communicates what you want to  achieve by tackling your messy problem.


Examples of ‘Wicked’ or ‘Messy’ Problems

My team’s performance looks like it should be great on paper, but for some reason we aren’t delivering in the way that I had hoped.

The market is changing and our sales have dropped off. We need to start a new growth curve.

I want to change the direction of my career but am not sure what I want to do and how to make the change.

How do I develop the capability within my team to pursue the new opportunities that are coming up?


Throughout the next 12 weeks, you will be using the resources and techniques to help you progress towards a BHAG that is important to you. Ideally, achieving your BHAG will make a material difference to you and /  or your organisation.

You probably have a range of potential BHAGs that you’d like to tackle. Focus will be important, though, because if you have too many BHAGs on the go at once, your efforts and effectiveness could become diluted. So it’s better if you can select one BHAG that you would really like some help with. You will be able to use the techniques and approaches that you use in the coming weeks to work on other BHAGs, as several Idea Time alumni have done successfully.

By definition, BHAGs are multi-faceted. This means that you might want to work on different aspects of your BHAG as you work through the programme and make headway with your solution.


Nerdy Facts

  • The BHAG term is actually a legit, technical term! The concept was first presented back in 1994 by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”. In the book, a BHAG is intended to significantly disrupt the organisation, market or industry. Over the last 20+ years the term BHAG has evolved to also include much more modest, but still stretching goals. Anything in your “too difficult” or “needs some thinking time” pile counts as a BHAG! A ‘true BHAG is clear and compelling,  serves as  unifying focal point  of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.” (Collins and Porras, 1996).


  • ‘Wicked’ is not a trendy new term. It was used in social planning as far back as the late 1960s and early 1970s by writers and researchers such as Rittel and Churchman.
  • Some famous BHAG examples that you might have come across before include…
  • “Land a man on the moon by the end of this decade and return him safely”.  (JFK)
  • Amazon:  “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”
  • Google: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

4 Key Features of a Great BHAG

Collins and Porras identified 4 key features of a great BHAG. These are:

  1. Aligned. To be transformational and successful, your BHAG will work best if it is consistent with your overarching desires, aims and objectives.
  2. Audacious.  This one is a bit more obvious, of course, because it’s the ‘A: of BHAG! The challenging and exciting thing about a BHAG is that it needs fresh approaches and different thinking.
  3. Articulate. It needs to be clear and describe a straight forward target outcome.
  4. Arduous. A good BHAG is motivational and inspiring because it provides an appropriate level of stretch that requires you to go somewhat beyond your usual way of thinking.


Idea Time

Your first step now is to begin to define your BHAG and map out what is looks like. Allow at least 10 minutes for this activity. You may wish to spend longer on it, or perhaps revisit it after a few days – all of which is great. A lot can be achieved in 10 minutes, so give it a go and see how you get on.The reason I have asked you to use this technique is to open up your thinking, and to begin to frame challenges as a positive and motivational possibility.

Step 1:

Spend just a few minutes completing the following statement as many times as you can with real items relating to your work context:

 Wouldn’t it be fantastic if…


Jot your thoughts down here – see if you can think of at least 5 things.

1.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

2.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

3.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

4.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if

5.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if


Do add more if you’d like to go beyond 5 items


Step 2:

Select the statement from Step 1 that would make the most material difference to your individual, team or business performance and that has the potential to become a motivational BHAG for the next few weeks. You might have a couple or more of connected statements that you want to combine into a single BHAG. If so, that’s completely fine.

Write down your selected statement.

Step 3:

Now add these things into your statement:

  1. Your personal strengths and the tools that you have that will help you to achieve your BHAG.
  2. Any hurdles that you think might pop up.
  3. Any questions that are in your mind about attaining your BHAG.
  4. Finally, note down the people, opportunities and things that will support you on the journey.

If you’d like to get in touch by phone or email, I’d love to hear about your BHAG, and will be really pleased to offer any tips or additional insights that might help.

Next week, I will will be focusing on how to leverage your business brainpower to help you with those ‘wicked challenges’ and progress your BHAG.

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