I recently did an interview for Tim Challies’ blog on Desiring God, where my role is senior director of strategy.
I talk about how DG began, our core purpose, our philosophy of being here to serve rather than for how we can benefit, why we post everything online for free, and some thoughts on organizational effectiveness.
In regards to the latter, one of the things I talk about is how an organization should navigate the future in light of the fact that it cannot be known with clarity — and therefore detailed strategic blueprints become outdated almost right away. I discuss three ways that we do this:
- Evolutionary progress, which happens incrementally and organically (rather than according to a predetermined plan) through the principle of “try a lot of stuff and keep what works.”
- Building on the strengths of the staff.
- Intentional and planned progress, through the concept of BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) that paint in broad strokes the envisioned future.
The core idea here is to combine incremental progress, which progresses organically in response to the environment and needs as you experience them, with intentional and bold goals (BHAGs) that paint in broad strokes but do not blueprint things out in detail. This provides intentionality about the future without attempting to script everything out, so that the organization can remain flexible according to reality as it actually is while still progressing toward a bold envisioned future.
There is a great quote in Built to Last on how Jack Welch utilized both of these concepts effectively at GE, which I think explains the concept very well:
Instead of directing a business according to a detailed … strategic plan, Welch believed in setting only a few clear, overarching goals. Then, on an ad hoc basis, his people were free to seize any opportunities they saw to further those goals. This crystallized in his mind after reading Johannes von Moltke, a nineteenth century Prussian general influenced by the renowned military theorist Karl von Clausewitz, who argued that detailed plans usually fail, because circumstances inevitably change.