On May 25th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to a joint session of congress. That speech declared a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for America’s space exploration program,  a declaration of intent to put a man on the moon. On July 20th, 1969 that dream was realized when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. 

On the Space Coast of Florida, events to commemorate the Apollo program took the forefront this month. Pub crawls, parades, concerts, and assorted VIP galas were held to remember this national accomplishment. It is fitting that many of those events took place at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Declaration of Needed Change

President Kennedy’s speech on May 25th, 1961 made it clear that the battle against tyranny was inextricably linked to our space program. He stated the importance clearly, “Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.” 

Statement of what each Individual Must Do

President Kennedy not only tied this BHAG to our very survival, he described what was needed, “…every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.” 

Affirmation of the outcome

And he stated optimistically he believed it could be done, “I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary.” 

A BHAG serves as a mechanism to spur change, innovation, and progress. Even if you don’t possess the oratory skills of President Kennedy, you can create your own organizational BHAG by following the steps President Kennedy used in his address to congress. 

  • Declare the needed change
  • State what each individual must do
  • Affirm the outcome

Beyond altering an organization’s course, BHAG’s create a focus that helps others find meaning. Striving for a challenging future state is what one needs to find meaning in life. Even if your organizational change is smaller in scope than building rockets, you can follow the steps listed above to help your organization innovate, change, and find meaning.