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Sunday, 17 October 2010

5% Growth Next Year? Go For a B-HAG Instead!

Renowned author and Vistage speaker, Lee Thayer, tells the story of the time he asked a client what he was planning for next year in terms of growth of the business and was told "around 10%" which Lee said was the expected answer as he (the client) could do that in his head.

"Not at all" said Lee: "I think you should go for doubling your turnover"

The client went pale and there came a flood of the usual negative reasons; "We don't have the people", "The market isn't there", "We don't have the finance" etc. etc etc.

"I guess so" replied Lee, "But if you were to do it, what would you need to do in order to make sure that you achieved it?"

Now that is an entirely different question from "How can you do it?" because it presupposes that there will be a measure of analysis of the situation.   A useful method is the Ishikawa technique which uses the format of a fish skeleton (visualise a cat emerging from a cartoon dustbin with a fish skeleton in its mouth).

The head of the fish is the objective.  By the way, the word objective can be defined as "something that we INTEND to achieve" rather than a target or even a goal.   The ribs of the fish are the business functions such as finance, sales, marketing, operations and so on, as appropriate to the the business.

Preferably using an outside facilitator, the team then brainstorms ideas of what each function needs to do in order to achieve the main objective, often using Stick-It notes applied to each function.

When the process is complete, the team will know pretty well what actions will be needed in order to achieve the objective.

Ask yourself the question; is it worth your while going through all that activity for a 10% growth objective?  Far better, as Lee did, to go for a B-HAG, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (the words have been changed to protect the innocent) and then go through the Ishikawa procedure.  Even if the team doesn't achieve the objective, their minds will have been opened to greater possibilities and that can only be of value in difficult times.

The brainstorm may well throw up some great ideas as to how the business can develop new opportunities for products, markets, technologies and so on, all of which may be necessary for the projected growth.

Essentially, this is NOT a forecasting exercise.  It is a statement of where you want the business to go and then to develop a process by which the objective can be achieved.  Forecasting is best done by licking the finger to see which way the wind is blowing and is about as accurate.

So what happened to Lee's client?  He took the idea on board, sold it to his team, and they went for it and didn't succeed.  They went from $20m turnover to $35m in the year.

If you don't ask and you don't plan, you won't get, so go for that B-HAG.
Have a great week.

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