Hidden goals in projects: A qualitative exploratory study of their occurrence and causes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


While project management literature acknowledges the significance of goals for overall project success and strongly recommends that projects aim for having clear goals, project management literature also contains accounts of goals, which are hidden, tacit or covert – resulting in an apparent contradiction. In order to explore the topic of hidden goals, this study summarizes the view that the project management literature has on hidden goals and offers empirical accounts from experienced project professionals. The study finds that experienced project managers are familiar with the phenomenon of hidden goals. A typology based on the causes leading to a goal remaining hidden is proposed: goal-holders may be unaware that their need constitutes a goal; goal-holders may be unable to articulate or to communicate their goal; goals may also become lost; and goal-holders might decide not to state their goal overtly, whether due to ulterior motives or to accommodate others’ interests. Alternatively goal-holders may also consider non-disclosure an overriding necessity. In addition, the study offers practitioners help in understanding the phenomenon of hidden goals and presents scholars with avenues for detailed study.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProject Management Theory Meets Practice
EditorsJan Pries-Heje, Per Svejvig
Number of pages12
Place of PublicationRoskilde
PublisherRoskilde University Press
Publication date2015
ISBN (Print)978-87-7867-461-6
ISBN (Electronic)978-87-7867-466-1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA3 Book chapter


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Project management
  • Hidden goals
  • Decision-making
  • Organizational politics


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