Goal Ambiguity and the Study of American Bureaucracy

Hal G. Rainey

in The Oxford Handbook of American Bureaucracy

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199238958
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

Goal Ambiguity and the Study of American Bureaucracy


This article first summarizes the goals of government organizations and the influences on the ambiguity of those goals. It specifically addresses why and how public organizations face goal ambiguity. It then reviews the limited research on the goals of public organizations and describes recent studies that have analyzed the level of goal ambiguity of large samples of government organizations. It finally presents the remaining challenges and future research directions on this important and understudied feature of American bureaucracy. The presented studies provide encouraging evidence that researchers can develop measures of goal characteristics. These measures could then be related to other variables in meaningful ways that suggest the value and viability of the concepts and measures.

Keywords: goal ambiguity; American bureaucracy; government organizations; public organizations

Article.  9497 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics

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