Journal Article

Goal Ambiguity in U.S. Federal Agencies

Young Han Chun and Hal G. Rainey

in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

Published on behalf of Public Management Research Association

Volume 15, issue 1, pages 1-30
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 1053-1858
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-9803 | DOI:
Goal Ambiguity in U.S. Federal Agencies

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Observations that government organizations have particularly high levels of organizational goal ambiguity, and that this goal ambiguity has major influences on their other characteristics, abound in the literature on public bureaucracy. Few researchers, however, have developed quantified measures of goal ambiguity and tested these frequent assertions with large samples of government organizations. We develop measures of four dimensions of goal ambiguity: mission comprehension ambiguity, directive goal ambiguity, evaluative goal ambiguity, and priority goal ambiguity. Confirming hypotheses developed from the literature on public organizations, the last three variables show relations to organizational age, financial publicness (proportion of funding from government allocations), competing demands, policy problem complexity, and regulatory status. The success of the measures of goal ambiguity demonstrates the feasibility of measuring the concept and conducting empirical tests of observations that are often repeated without such testing, and will support further theoretical and methodological development of this important topic.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Public Administration

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