Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, one of the cornerstones of any business library, introduced a concept for stretch goals that has eclipsed the work itself in terms of enduring fame. In the book, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras discussed the BHAG–Big Hairy Audacious Goal–as a a powerful way to stimulate progress:
“A BHAG is clear and compelling, needing little explanation; people get it right away. Think of the NASA moon mission of the 1960s. The best BHAGs require both building for the long term AND exuding a relentless sense of urgency: What do we need to do today, with monomaniacal focus, and tomorrow, and the next day, to defy the probabilities and ultimately achieve our BHAG?”
The authors focused on big, hairy, audacious goals for titans of industry and unicorn entrepreneurs, but not all moon shots need be driven by a profit motive. Anyone can set a BHAG when the stakes are high enough… even in the realm of test scores. Perhaps especially in the realm of test scores!
Do score goals need to be audacious? We’ve discussed S.M.A.R.T. goals for the SAT & ACT in the past, but this business paradigm focuses on smaller attainable steps. A BHAG, in the other hand, should incorporate four exceedingly ambitious qualities:
Which is to say that a properly set score goal can be transformational when tied closely to what a test taker really wants. Some people strive for respect or the accomplishment of one of the rarest feats in testing. Others see a superior test score as the key to unlock outstanding academic opportunities, ultra-competitive programs, or life-changing amounts of scholarship money. That’s the alignment.
Once you articulate a target score, as in tell others (at least the supportive ones) about what you are aiming for, you should be able to tell how audacious your goal is by the reaction you receive. This is where the final and perhaps most important quality of a BHAG comes into play: do you have a plan to achieve a dramatic, statistically impossible score increase?
Aiming for the stars only impresses when you present a clear, arduous plan to reach them. Achieving your big hairy audacious score goal will–in fact, MUST–require lots of study, tons of practice tests, and perhaps the support of the best educators you can find. Practice and coaching may be the keys to your wildest testing dreams, but the process begins with the bravery to set a big hairy audacious score goal.