Thursday, May 26, 2011

Big Hairy Audacious Goals in Volunteer Management

BHAGs stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals, an idea conceptualized in the book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James Collins and Jerry Porras. According to Collins and Porras, a BHAG is a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business’ existence.

BHAGs are meant to shift how we do things, the way we are perceived in our field and possibly even the field itself. Collins and Porras describe BHAGs as nearly impossible to achieve without consistently working outside of a comfort zone and displaying commitment, confidence and even a bit of arrogance.

BHAGs are bigger, bolder and more powerful than regular long- and short-term goals..

I first heard of BHAGS when I did a leadership course and they have entered my stream of consciousness ever since. I am a believer in BHAGs and have incorporated such thinking into my future planning. From the vantage point of the now of course.

I have 2 points to make here in relation to Volunteer Management.

Here’s the first:

What would be you BHAG in Volunteer Management? And we could break that down to two areas – the sector and your leadership role.

For me my sector BHAG would be “a recognised profession that has a low turnover and is seen as a vital component of Society.” People would ask “is that really Big, hairy and audacious”? Unfortunately it is in our sector I believe.

Here’s the second:

What would be you BHAG in your Volunteer Management or Coordination Role? Is it to have the best Volunteer program that leads locally, nationally or globally? Or is it to achieve recognition of your role locally.

Is it big, hairy and audacious?

In The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz said:

“In these modern times, belief is doing much bigger things than moving mountains. The most important element – in fact, the essential element – in our space explorations today is the belief that space can be mastered. Without firm, unwavering belief that man can travel space, our scientists would not have the courage, interest, and enthusiasm to proceed. Belief that cancer can be cured will ultimately produce cures for cancer.”

We so need BHAGs in Volunteer Management. There is not enough dialogue on what those Big Hairy Audacious Goals should be. And if there is – there is too little follow up.

We also need to discover our true belief. Belief that Volunteer Management will someday be a recognised profession that many aspire to.

“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

Please share your BHAG?


  1. I love BHAG? (maybe cos I am tall and hairy?!) LOl
    My question is as an Australian..what are our BHAGs for our country?
    What real strategies do we have to deal with the huge issues impacting volunteering:
    1. generational shifts
    2. coping with regulations eg where is our national volunteer insurance scheme?
    3. strategies for maintaining service delivery for NFPS as volunteering is increasingly sold as a short term situation?
    4. adequate volunteer management resourcing
    5. the tech explosion ...many NFPs are so low tech

    Volunteering Australia, Governments, State and regional volunteer centres have yet to agree or demonstrate some BHAGs. We are still generally talking "motherhood" stuff.

    Correct me if I am wrong.

  2. "Correct me if I am wrong." No..because you are tall and hairy.LOL

    Your points are well taken Martin. I would love for you to expand on those 5 important points. Any chance you could do that here or on your own blog???

    Your last paragraph could include our own sector of Volunteer Management but in my own opinion at the moment; some state peak bodies like Volunteering Queensland appear to me to be demonstrating some BHAGS even if they are not calling it such.

    Take their webinars, innovate symposium, Business roundtable and Volunteering TV. And rather than Motherhood statements their CEO Jelenko Dragisic is on record for stating: “Volunteering has always played a critical part as a social regulator that allows society to adjust to changes brought about by a range of events such as economic downturns, environmental disasters, even armed conflicts. Today, we recognise that the spirit of community enterprise has reached a stage where investing in its sustainability needs to be a priority for all.”

    On a national scale though I agree with you.

    And on an international scale there is a lack of unity on BHAGS.


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