Goals are tentatively defined as conceptions of desired ends.

Some say that goals are indispensable to understanding organization action, others say goals merely justify past actions. A rational perspective suggests that they guide decisions on how to define organizational structure.

Problems in Conceptualizing Organizational Goals
"The concept of organizational goals is among the most slippery and treacherous of all those employed by organizatioal analysts." (Scott p. 285). From a rationalist perspective goals provide criteria for generating and selecting among alternative courses of action (Simon 1964) -- the provide direction and constraint for decision making and action. Natural system analysts emphasize that goals are a source of identification and motivation for participants (Barnard, 1938). Selznick (1949) notes that goals can become weapons to garner resources from the environment and overcome opposition. Specific goals may not be mutually compatible or useful for each of these two major perspectives (cognitive and cathectic (motivational)).

Institutional analysis stress the symbolic function of goals (Scott p. 285). They are important legitimization tools to assuage external constituencies like banks, customers, etc.

But goals don't always precede actions. Often rationality is more post-decision than a predecision occurance (Weick 1969) and often serves as a justification. Goals can also help evaluate the behavior of participants.

Goals often have different functions and arise from different sources. Top management often stress motivational goals to help build commitment and enthusiasm. Middle managers often transform these vague motivational goals into more specific cognitive goals that help subordinates engage in decision-making and take action.

Individual and Organizational Goals
Simon (1964,1976) argues a strong rational distinction between individual goals that govern the decision to enter or leave an organization, and goals that govern their decisions as participants. He labels these individual goals as motives. A natural perspective argues that individual personal preferences do influence participant decision-making, and people do not always contrain themselves to formally defined roles. Thus one cannot simply survey individuals about their goals and aggregate them into the organizational goals. But also there is not an "organizational mind" where collective goals are formulated (Scott p. 288).