goal displacement


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goal displacement

the process by which means designed to achieve goals become ends in themselves. The concept was first used by MERTON (1949) to explain how the inflexibility of formal rules can lead to individuals using tactics of survival which displace the official goals of an organization. Merton's example revealed how government officials tended to act in ways which protected their interests rather than served the public. A similar, classic, case study of goal displacement was identified in Selznicks research on the Tennessee Valley Water Authority (1966) which revealed that democratic ideals of the Authority were subverted by officials in furtherance of their own departmental interests. Although MICHELS (1911) did not use the term, his IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY was an early example of goal displacement, represented by the conflict between democratic principles and bureaucracy.

The concept of goal displacement belongs to the language of functionalism and implies the existence of both ‘organizational goals’ and ‘dysfunctional’ activities. See also MANIFEST AND LATENT FUNCTIONS, BOUNDED RATIONALITY, DYSFUNCTION.

References in periodicals archive ?
Goal Displacement and Organizational eating in Public Schools
Public schools provide an ideal opportunity for studying questions of goal displacement and organizational cheating.
The potential for goal displacement exists because of the multiple goals that school systems seek.
To illustrate the trade-off among goals and the potential for goal displacement consider the TAAS exam in Texas.
The larger the number of individuals who need to be coordinated, the greater the cost of any collective action (Olson 1965) including systematic goal displacement. To reflect organizational costs of cheating, we created a measure of organizational bureaucracy--the ratio of central and campus administrators per 100 teachers.
Engage in goal displacement and seek to meet the standard even if it affects performance in a detrimental manner or continue to seek the larger goal and hope that success in the actual mission will also produce success on the performance standard.
Table 1 Health Sanctions Resulting from Failure to Return Forms Frequency Percent All of the sanctions 23 11.1 Most of the sanctions 104 50.2 Few of the sanctions 73 35.2 None of the sanctions 7 3.4 Missing 74 Missing Total 281 100.0 Table 2 Education Sanctions resulting from Failure to Return Forms Frequency Percent All of the sanctions 12 5.8 Most of the sanctions 68 32.9 Few of the sanctions 109 52.7 None of the sanctions 18 8.7 Missing 74 Missing Total 281 100.0 We have argued that client-based verification results in goal displacement. A comparison of staff perceptions presented in the tables is consistent with this claim.
Client-based verification avoids the interorganizational coordination problems but provides opportunities for fraud and may result in goal displacement.
That client-based verification leads to goal displacement was an inference drawn by the researchers.