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Data collection for BHAGs

Recently, a FaceBook friend posted a definition of “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs). It read something like this, “The power of a BHAG is that it gets you out of thinking too small. A great BHAG changes the time frame and simultaneously creates a sense of urgency. It is a real paradox…you’re not going to get a BHAG done in three or five years. A really good BHAG may take years or even centuries.”

I personally love that we can experience creativity spikes from thinking about the big picture, but to create data collection and reporting systems, you should think in tactical terms of the goal as well. Over the years, I’ve encountered a number goals that are too broad and hard to measure, so I’ve revised my thinking to view BHAGs as Big Hairy Achievable Goals.

Here are some of the components I check before diving into any kind of data system setup for outcomes or goals:

* The social problem has been well defined and can be measured without having to rely on potentially disorganized collaborations that cross too many domains.

* Data system designers are brought into the planning process early, so they can begin planning their data collection and reporting approach.

* Strategic plans have been developed with clearly delineated action steps that are easily understood and agreed to by stakeholders.

* Basic project planning principals have been incorporated that include:

  • anticipated levels of human and financial resources
  • start and end dates
  • accountability assignments
  • appropriately developed reporting formats that will inform varying roles of stakeholders based on what they need to do their job

* The design of performance outcomes takes into consideration the structure of collaborations, data collection tools and workflows and incorporates them within reporting design.

There is much value gained when data helps identify improvements to program design and targets will be missed.  Comparisons between anticipated and actual targets might be more comforting to stakeholders when the variances seem realistic and can be explained.

Our case study, Frameworks for tracking performance outcomes offers sample tools and ideas for the practical tracking of BHAGs from a data collection and report design perspective and I encourage you to share your ideas about data collection for outcomes as well.