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General concepts of goals and goal-setting in healthcare: A narrative review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2018

Osahon Ogbeiwi*
Faculty of Health Studies, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK
Corresponding author:


Goal-setting is fundamental to organisational management, yet not every manager knows how to do it well. A narrative literature review was done to explore current knowledge of definitions and classifications of goals, and principles of goal-setting in the healthcare sector. Online databases generated 65 relevant articles. Additional literature sources were snowballed from referenced articles, and textbooks. Most academic authors define ‘goal’ synonymously as ‘aim’ or ‘objective’, but there is evidence of hermeneutical confusion in general literature. Goal classifications are diverse, differing according to their contextual, structural, functional, and temporal characteristics. Many authors agree that goal-setting is problem-based, change-oriented, and can effectively motivate attainment if the goal statement is formulated with a specific and challenging or SMART framework. However, recent authors report varying definitions for SMART, and evidence of past studies that empirically examined the nature and efficacy of frameworks currently used for formulating goal statements for health programmes are lacking.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press and Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management 2018

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