Using BHAG’s To Cause Major Change

I sit here at my dining room table with a beer on the tail end of what has been the most ambitious and stressful project of my E-commerce career thus far. I’m two weeks in and tomorrow marks the successful completion of this project. The project I speak of is to change our fulfillment time from 7-14 days to 24 hours, and in just a few weeks of [insane amounts of] work we were able to pull it off.

The systems we introduced were the easy part of this project, and a subject for a future blog post. The difficult part, to me at least, was how we could convince a huge fulfillment team and basically a whole company that after 10 years of doing it one way, we could change everything and solve the seemingly endless amount of problems that come about when you’re taking 1-2 weeks to get an order out of the door. So in order to get everyone on board, we needed a good plan.

The original plan was to whittle down the lead time to 2-3 days. Plenty to meet any fulfillment requirements imposed by Amazon or other portals we sell through, and not so crazy sounding that people would lose hope. However, having just been at a friends house who loves Jim Collins more than any man I’ve ever met, I decided to review some of my notes on his books and remembered BHAG’s, which for the uninitiated, stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. So BHAG’s need to be crazy enough to get people excited, and that’s why we decided we were going for a 24 hour lead time.

Once we set this 24 hour goal up on a pedestal as our singular goal that we must achieve at all cost, everyone was on board and excited. I was no longer arguing over tiny details because everyone knew how much things would improve if we could get there. I’ve never seen a transition of attitude like that before in my life. Skeptical employees that were wondering who this new guy from North Carolina thought he was, were suddenly entirely on board and busting their ass to accomplish this goal.

In the first week we had 2 snowstorms. The first one caused half of our staff to leave 4 hours early one day, the second one knocked out power to the warehouse for hours. On top of that, we had many hours of downtime when our software changes weren’t working smoothly. Despite all of this we were shipping everything by the end of the day. This is the power of everyone aligning behind a singe goal that is exciting and audacious.

So although this project has not been without stress and near disasters, the human element has been steadfast and inspiring. I wish I could have some sort of story about giving a rousing speech to motivate everyone, but in reality half the warehouse staff doesn’t even know I exist. All that matters was that we were all aligned and united in the goals of going home at the end of every day having accomplished what we thought was impossible prior to these last few weeks.

So I present this question to you: What changes are you trying to push through with little fanfare? Can you amp up the goals to make them big, hairy, and audacious? Where can you place a single goal on a pedestal that will be clear to everyone and cause huge changes for the better?