Exploring the Risk of Goal Displacement in Regulatory Enforcement Agencies: A Goal-Ambiguity Approach

Kornelis Huizinga, Martin Bree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
81 Downloads (Pure)


It is generally believed that public agencies are especially prone to goal displacement, but research has remained relatively limited. In this conceptual paper, we explore why and how goal displacement might affect public regulatory enforcement agencies. Central to our approach is an analysis of the ambiguity of enforcement goals, arguing that the ambiguity related to the evaluation of goal achievement makes enforcement agencies vulnerable for goal displacement. The underlying reason is that this type of ambiguity increases the risk of neglecting the complexities of enforcement goals. We specify three types of complexity neglect and describe their potential goal-displacement effects. We provide examples of goal-displacement-reinforcing factors to clarify conceptual notions. We conclude that in the absence of a sound tradition of ex-post effect evaluations, goal displacement might be much more prevalent in enforcement agencies than is often assumed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-898
Number of pages31
JournalPublic Performance and Management Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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