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 ?
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.
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.
Client-based verification avoids the interorganizational coordination problems but provides opportunities for fraud and may result in goal displacement.
This procedure will result in goal displacement and create opportunities for fraud unless local welfare bureaus systematically check the information provided by clients.
That client-based verification leads to goal displacement was an inference drawn by the researchers.