Goal ambiguity and managerial goal setting strategies: From item generation to scale validation
Hoek, M.A. van der
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Public sector goals are prone to goal ambiguity: a situation in which goals can be interpreted in multiple ways. With the rise of performance management, clear goals have gained in practical importance as they are needed to know what should be accomplished. However, our understanding of what goal ambiguity is exactly is still limited. Moreover, being able to deal with goal ambiguity can support performance management, for which managerial goal setting strategies provide an opportunity. This concept, however, needs better conceptualisation. Both concepts are also in need of good survey measures to study them. To address those gaps, three empirical studies within the context of universities in the Netherlands have been conducted to develop better conceptualisations and survey measures for goal ambiguity and managerial goal setting strategies. Starting with a qualitative approach to delve into the meaning of the key concepts, interviews (n = 8) and focus groups (n = 10) were conducted as a source for item development. Subsequently, the items were tested in cognitive interviews (n = 6) to improve the questionnaire. In the third study, the newly developed items were tested at social and legal science departments within six universities (n = 57). Exploratory factor analysis was performed to evaluate the data and develop measurement scales. The qualitative findings confirm the importance and reality of goal ambiguity, but analysis of the survey data does not produce meaningful scales. For managerial goal setting strategies, on the other hand, three scales have been developed: translation, participation, and direction. Validation in future research is encouraged.