In-house Issues: Sometimes Less is Less and More is More – More or Less

I was running through the Goals-Strategies-Tactics process with a group of engaged and committed in-house design managers when an ambitious participant threw out what is often labeled in the acronym intensive business world as a BHAG (pronounced beehag). It stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, a moniker we all could really do without. But it was a BHAG none-the-less.

After listening to a number of goals offered up by the attendees in response to how to improve their teams that were appropriate to the exercise, but clearly less ambitious, this manager’s response made me smile. What it was is less relevant than the fact that it was broad and bold – 2 characteristics that are often frowned upon when it comes to creating a vision.

Broad is considered a no-no because of the misguided fear that groups will veer into too many different directions without ever achieving anything. Bold is sometimes avoided because of the concern that it can lead to unrealistic goals that will guarantee failure and disenchantment with the whole goal-setting process.

I beg to differ with these beliefs. For the most part, when I work through this process with in-house group leaders, their responses tend to skew more tactical and limited in scope – that’s the natural default. Often they don’t realize that their goals are actually smaller players supporting a higher unstated vision that in its anonymity remains unaddressed.

It’s better to start big at the get-go rather than build up to it because the more broadly a vision is defined the more strategies show up as ways to support it. Some of the actions that are determined to be paths to a big goal would never have been considered had a lesser vision been adopted. With more options to choose from, internal creative teams have more flexibility to strategically target the timing and order of their implementation.

The key is to take the broader range of options generated by a bigger goal and prioritize them by ease of execution, impact and importance. There may be smaller strategies where you can get a quick win and juice up your team for a more demanding activity. A proactive project that supports a key client resulting in more business may also make it to the top of the list. The bottom-line is that, with more choices, there’s a better chance of accomplishing a bigger goal than a smaller one.

So, what was that big goal the young design manager put out for consideration? Was it a global corporate makeover? A jump to an agency operational structure?  Achieving millions of dollars of cost-savings to the host company? No – it was a bit more nuanced and subtle, yet more broad and bold than any of those ideas. It was, simply, to have fun.