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Goal Planning & Alignment

Goals Series Part 2: Working with Employees to Attain Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal

February 2, 2016
6 min read
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Performance Management, Supercharged



We’re glad you joined us on our ClearCompany goals series. Last time, we discussed just how to align goals with your employees. If you haven’t read the goal alignment post: Why Goal Alignment is About More Than Just Software, we covered understanding employee goals through transparency, how to collect and track that information with a culture of transparency and how to communicate the organizational goals to employees to give their daily work meaning and increase productivity.


Today, we’ll be talking about BHAGs. While not the prettiest of phrases (or acronyms) BHAGs are the big goals. Ironically, many companies consider their mission, vision and values to be BHAGs, but in reality, a goal has to be tangible, with a set and measurable deliverable and a timeline and budget or resources to get there.


employee-goalsDoes your company include BHAGs in their vision and values?


A company’s Big Hairy [redacted] Audacious Goal might look like this:

Achieve $20 million in new product sales in the west coast industrial vertical over the next 3 years.

This has a number we can measure. It has a defined area (both geographically and via industry) and it has a timeline. Once the company communicated this to its staff, it would go to work achieving this goal. Now, to an inexperienced manager, it may seem like sales has to do all the work here, but in fact, “new product” signifies to us that the product division will be involved, and if it’s new, there will likely be service and compliance employees working to keep those sales running smoothly, there will also be administrative staff working to fulfill orders, and ship products and invoices customers. Marketing will have to create collateral to assist and support the sales staff. And on and on…


employee-goalsWhat to expect out of a BHAG and who to get involved:


The overall company goal affects multiple departments, which affects teams, which affects people. It’s not just those who work in product or sales or even accounting. While you can use project management or goal tracking software from your talent management software provider to manage this, it’s imperative that the executive level work together to break this goal down. While every company is different, and every goal will have different parameters (and economic conditions, innovation and market fluctuations can always derail a BHAG) break it down thus:

Executive Job: Break your BHAG down over time: In our above example, we have three years to achieve $20 million in sales. Our fictional company has crunched the numbers and this is obtainable (obviously goals should be in line or close to what the company can reasonably achieve based on projections and past performance). So we’ll break down the goal into three years, further into quarterly goals and further into monthly sprint goals.


employee-goals After formulating a reasonable goal, follow these steps to keep up with it:


Director Job: Break your BHAG down over department: We already listed all the departments that the above BHAG will touch above. But survey department heads on this one. For example, you may have to hire 4 new product managers and appointment setters in order to achieve your goal. Recruiting and HR will have to hire additional employees and contractors to create all the support for this initiative and plan for current staff. This may put strain on the recruitment and HR departments and alter any budgets or succession plan in place. Create contingencies for marketing plans, budgetary oversights and potential labor shortages in competitive skill areas or regions in a talent desert. Remember to stack the goals like dominoes. Sales cannot sell product that has not been created yet (but you can input pre-sales or push sales focus until the product is ready to ship) and product managers may not exist before HR hires them. 

Manager/Lead Job: Break your BHAG down over teams/individuals: Once you know that your product department needs at least 4 new managers to begin to fulfill the kind of demand listed in the BHAG, you can push goals out to your HR team, once those people are trained by the existing product team, you can pull back from managing the goals for HR and move the onus to the product department and pre-sales team. Once you’ve broken your BHAG up and handed it down to teams and individuals, you can allow them to create tactical plans as to how they achieve those goals within the time frame specified. 


employee-goals Learn how to create useful, tactical plans to keep your BHAGs running smoothly:


Allowing your BHAG to trickle through the organization takes a little more time than announcing your BHAG at the annual dinner and expecting success, but it’s also a much likelier path to success than aggrandized wishing. Real goal-setting permeates the entire organization and allows for both accountability and responsibility. Employees, managers, directors and executives can easily see the path to achieving a goal over time, and their team and individual contribution to that goal. Using a Gantt chart (like the one in our Goals module), you can see where goals overlap for each person, department and over time. This kind of detailed focus allows companies to plan for contingencies (what if the west coast regional sales leader quits in Year 2?) and create alternate strategies.

BHAG = Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. This can be overwhelming when you look at the people management and performance issues that can (and will!) arise when you attempt to reach for a new rung on the corporate ladder. Hopefully, this shows that with the right planning, goal tracking software and communication, you can break down your BHAG into chunks your employees can work together to accomplish.

Next in our series, we’ll discuss why goals fail within the organization and how to set your organization up for success from the get-go!


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