Death to BHAGs and other over-blown organizational rhetoric

With all due respect to Jim Collins, enough with the BHAGs. Please.

catch_a_star_pc_1224The idea of pushing ourselves in pursuit of a big hairy audacious goal sounds great on paper. But more often than not, over-sized aspirations hit small to mid-size nonprofits with a BHAM (big horrible awful mess).

And substituting “holy” for “hairy,” as I’ve heard done, doesn’t make most situations any better. Out of reach is out of reach, regardless the spiritual patina applied to a statement.

All the time, I see ministry leaders (CEOs and boards) shoot for the stars with grandiose vision statements, but then struggle with down to earth issues like planning, budgeting, and fundraising. The tendency reminds me of the cartoon where one character states, “We need a really big idea for tomorrow’s meeting.” A second character responds: “I know! Let’s become billionaires and retire before age 40.”

Sounds great, but it ain’t gonna happen. And neither will most BHAGs.

So forget words like “premier,” “best in class,” or “excellent.” For a lot of nonprofits, faith-based included, “good” or even “good enough” is a stretch. And there’s no shame in that.

As Seth Godin wrote in a recent blog article:

Aiming too high is just as fearful a tactic as aiming too low. Before you promise to change the world, it makes sense to do the hard work of changing your neighborhood.

Do what you say, then do it again, even better.

How’s that for a big idea?

For more on the theme of realistic goal setting, see:

Even good ideas may have to die

Three steps beyond simply getting by

The role of edgy questions in strategic planning

What's your take on this topic?

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