In any business or organization, it helps to have the James Collins / Jerry Porras notion of the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) way out on the horizon for a team to be focused on achieving together. Whether that be a revenue dollar projection for 5 years down the road or another metric that is designed to be daring, large and seemingly unattainable. The trick is in the sales job throughout the organization to break the goal down into smaller pieces so that most people can get their head around it. Milestones for each department or function or division or store; deadlines for achieving interim goals; new processes that will help accelerate growth and profitability; additional resources, people and experience that will aid in the development of what skill sets it will take to get to this new level.
James Cameron, as an example, set his own BHAG on creating the next evolution in film-making with his monster hit Avatar. He envisioned a 3-D world where technology, which hadn’t even been invented yet, would meld both live action and animation into a fantastic and surreal adventure that is a treat to behold and sets the stage for the next generation of not only movie production but cinematic experience for the viewing public. This was years in the making and started with one BHAG and became a reality. But over $2 million in worldwide box office receipts is certainly a BHAG to behold.
So we come to Own The Podium. I have no quarrel with what the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Sports Canada tried to accomplish. They created their own BHAG for Canada and its elite winter athletes to become the country who won the most medals at their home Olympics in Vancouver last month. Did it provide extra pressure? Perhaps. Was it effective at raising the bar? Absolutely.
Management 101 always teaches us to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals. Life teaches us to aim high, “Your reach should exceed your grasp or what’s a heaven for” is a favourite quotation of mine. I agree with the intent of the program and its ability to galvanize the public behind our athlete’s efforts and even push our athletes to achieve greatness on home soil. We were inspired by their effort and their honesty both in winning and when they did not perform their level best in Vancouver.
However, if we stick to the SMART scenario, maybe what we chose to measure as a success was a bit unfair or at least not well thought out. It seems to me that to pin one’s hopes on racking up the highest medal totals takes as much luck as it takes skill and preparation. Whether it’s hundredths of a second in speed skating, skeleton, luge, bobsled or downhill skiing or it’s the biorhythms of not only the athletes but the judges on a particular day in figure skating, moguls skiing, aerials or half-pipe, there are factors working on a particular day at a particular moment that have nothing to do with skill, mental and physical preparation and/or pressure. To counteract these forces, a BHAG that clearly stipulated a vast improvement in top 10 finishes or the like from any other time in our Winter Olympic history, might have been more realistic.
Own The Podium as a slogan also came under fire for being un-Canadian or too “American” in its boastful nature and cocksure attitude. I like the slogan and if it were tempered with a more realistic yet still audacious set of goals, it may not have been seen to be as brash as it had been.