There is a growing trend driven by the difficult times for management to set very big goals (Big Hairy Audacious Goals… BHAG),and hope to create the focus necessary to achieve the BHAG outcome.

Often however, the opposite appears to occur, as those in the organization charged with the  execution of the plans simply do not believe the objectives are achievable.

Sometimes this is just that the objective is divorced from the reality of the competitive environment,  sometimes it is simply a failure of leadership, but most often, it is just that the goals emerge from wishful thinking that puts off difficult decisions for a bit longer. 

JFK said in 1961 “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to earth. ” This is probably the most famous BHAG of all. It is a statement in a single sentence that contains the three elements of a successful BHAG. It creates the vision of where we want to go, the measures of success are clearly articulated, and everyone recognised the resources necessary to achieve the task would be made available, because the President had committed himself to the goal.

No room for wishful thinking or bland leadership in that statement, and it was achieved. Would it have been achieved, had any of the three conditions been missed? Probably not, because it would have just been the wishful musings of the President.