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Extending the Theory of Goal Ambiguity to Programs: Examining the Relationship between Goal Ambiguity and Performance


  • Chan Su Jung

    1. City University of Hong Kong, China
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    • Chan Su Jung is assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy at City University of Hong Kong. His research interests include organizational goal properties, performance measurement and management, turnover, motivation, and job attitudes in public organizations. E-mail:


One of the main assumptions of empirical studies conducted on the influence of goal ambiguity in public management is that goal ambiguity relates negatively to performance. However, this relationship has rarely been tested at the program level because common goal ambiguity and performance measures for disparate government programs have been scant. The availability of Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) results for a number of federal programs provides the opportunity for an analysis testing the foregoing assumption. Measures of program goal ambiguity—target, timeline, and program evaluation—are shown to have negative relationships with different program performance scores, taking into account alternative influences or biases on performance. This analysis extends the theory of goal ambiguity by providing the first analysis of large-sample federal programs. The theoretical and practical implications are presented in the discussion and conclusion.