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So, you've probably heard of BHAGs if you've dipped your toes into Jim Collins' world or caught one of his TED Talks. BHAG, which stands for Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal, is like that wild dream that's both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. You know, the kind of goal that's crystal clear, grabs you by the guts, and makes you say, "Yeah, let's do this!" Every community, workplace, or organization has its own version of a BHAG–that one big, ambitious project or vision that could change the game forever. But diving into it? Well, that's a whole different story.

In my experience, local government leaders aren’t exactly short on vision or dreams, but they might stumble when it comes to getting the ball rolling. So, if you're gearing up to tackle your organization's BHAG, here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Sum it up in a sentence: Before you do anything else, try to condense your grand vision into one punchy sentence. Succinctly describe what you are trying to achieve since you will need this brief sentence for sharing the vision with others, and to keep your focus laser-sharp.
  2. Make a list of steps. BHAGs can feel like staring up at Everest. Break down that monster goal into bite-sized chunks. It's less overwhelming that way, and you'll always know exactly what step you're on. Don’t skip this step—write out the steps of what needs to happen.
  3. Have the right people working on the project. You're going to need your A-team for this. Look for the folks who thrive on a challenge, even if it means coloring outside the lines of their job description. Evaluate your team’s skills and temperament. Who loves a challenge and likes to put the pieces of the puzzle together?  Those are the people you need.
  4. Dream big, at least at first. Reality checks are essential, but not right out of the gate. Let your team dream without limits.  Imagining new things that don’t seem possible or likely is the foundation of a BHAG. Let the feasibility analyses and budget realities come into play a little later in the process.
  5. Don’t skimp on the experts. By its very nature, a BHAG may take you out of your comfort zone. If you don’t have the skills or experience internally to get something done, hire the very best experts you possibly can. I have seen projects that seemed truly impossible come to fruition because of the skill and value outside expertise brought. If a project or initiative is truly your big goal, then it deserves the resources necessary to explore its potential.
  6. Embrace iteration and adaptation. Flexibility is key when navigating uncharted territory. Expect that your initial plans may evolve in response to new information, changing circumstances, or unforeseen challenges. Embrace a culture of adaptation and remain agile in your approach while staying true to your overarching vision.
  7. Celebrate the small wins along the way. Finally, remember to celebrate progress, no matter how incremental. Acknowledge the collective efforts of everyone involved and recognize the impact of their contributions on advancing toward your big, audacious goal. These moments are necessary to keep morale high, especially as these projects can take a long time.

In the journey toward your BHAG, always remember that fortune favors the bold. By daring to dream big, taking calculated risks, and working through challenges, you'll pave the way for remarkable achievements that will shape the future of your organization and community.



Listen to Katherine on ICMA's Voices in Local Government podcast. EP47 Local Gov Life Advice: Career Moves, Coworkers, and Council.


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