A conceptual framework for analysis of goal ambiguity in public organizations

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Hal G. Rainey
  • Chan Su Jung

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-99
Journal / PublicationJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


Prominent authors have claimed that government organizations have high levels of goal ambiguity, but these claims have needed clarification and verification. We discuss the complexities of organizational goals and their analysis, and review many authors' observations about public agencies' goal ambiguity and its good and bad effects. Then, we propose a conceptual framework to organize and make explicit the observations, as a set of interrelated propositions about relations among concepts that influence organizational goal ambiguity and that are influenced by it. Then, to verify or falsify these propositions, one needs to define and measure organizational goal ambiguity and other concepts in the framework. We describe research that has done so and that supports propositions in the framework, with emphasis on research that has analyzed organizational goal ambiguity using measures of three dimensions of goal ambiguity. We describe research using these dimensions, as well as other studies and translate these findings into additional propositions that extend the conceptual framework.