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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Going For the B-HAG? Break it down Into Bite Sized Bits!

If you have read that great book, Touching the Void by climber Joe Simpson, you will recall that after a near fatal accident, Joe managed to get back to base camp notwithstanding he had a broken leg.  

Joe told the story of this epic journey at a National Vistage meeting in London to a totally enrapt audience.  He had been cut loose by his climbing partner after a fall while climbing in the Peruvian Andes and he fell into a snowdrift which cushioned his fall. 

The problem was that he was on his own and had to get back to base camp somehow.  The only way was to crawl there. 

The point of this tale is that Joe most certainly had an objective, to get to safety and it would be a long, hard and seemingly impossible feat if he were to manage it, with a broken leg, no food and very little water. 

His watch was still working and he gave himself a number of minutes in each case o crawl to a rock or through another snowdrift.  In the end he achieved his objective and made the five miles back to their base camp just before his partner had decided to return to civilisation. 

It was a most compelling presentation and about the only time that I can recall when a Vistage meeting was completely silent! 

This story is, of course, a great metaphor for objective setting in general.  For example, if out revenue this year is, say, £20m and we decide that next year our objective will be £40m, the reaction will be as expected. 

·       “Impossible!”
·       “We don’t have the people”
·       “The market isn’t there”
·       “Our competitors would react” 

and so on, ad nauseam.   

This is not to decry big objectives or B-HAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals and that is the clean version) but they can be overwhelming to some people and the immediate reaction is to say that it can’t be done, with a list of objections. 

Take an example from Joe Simpson.  He broke down the great objective of dragging himself and hopping the five miles to base camp, which on the face of it was impossible, and gave himself smaller objectives which he could achieve and feel good about each one. 

Taken as a whole, of course, they made sure that he would get back to safety and he did just that. 

Always go for the big one, the B-HAG, energise your people, give them lots of enthusiasm and positivity and some assistance to make sure that you achieve your big objective.  Bite sized objectives go to make up the great achievement.
 
 
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