Built to Last Chapter 5

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Chapter 5- Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Chapter 5 discusses a visionary company characteristic of taking risk and “setting super goals” as a hallmark for success. It starts off with Boeing’s pursuit of the commercial airline market in the 1950’s, which was underdeveloped and needing a major player for jet aircrafts. Unlike its rival Douglas Aircraft, who avoided entering the commercial market, Boeing took a gamble and developed a prototype for the commercial airliners used today.

This chapter introduces the “BHAG” concept as a way for companies to enhance team spirit and shooting for goals to become visionary. Porras and Collins describe BHAGs as nearly impossible, but possible with confidence and a bit of arrogance on behalf of the company. It stresses high commitment and working outside of a comfort zone. The Kennedy moon mission is also an example of a BHAG.

Visionary companies have a “commitment to challenging, audacious—and often risky—goals and projects toward which a visionary company channels its efforts.”

BHAGs: A Powerful Mechanism to Stimulate Progress
“There is a difference between merely having a goal and becoming committed to a huge, daunting challenge.”

A Clear—and Compelling—Goal
“A true BHAG is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort—often creating immense team spirit. It [also] has a clear finish line.”

Commitment and Risk
“A goal cannot be classified as a BHAG without a high level of commitment to the goal.”

The “Hubris Factor”
“Highly visionary companies seem to have self-confidence bordering on hubris.”

The Goal, Not the Leader (Clock Building, Not Time Telling)
“The key mechanism at work here is not charismatic leadership. … The goal itself [is] the [key] motivating mechanism.”

BHAGs and the “Postheroic Leader Stall”
“Corporations regularly face the dilemma of how to maintain momentum after the departure of highly energetic leaders (often founders).” Guidelines for CEOs,...
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