The Peculiar Case of “Going Forward”

Posted by jlubans on March 15, 2021

Dilbert Cartoon by Scott Adams

Why do some clichés live on?
What is the motive power behind “going forward” - and its alias “moving forward” - remaining as one of bureaucracy’s favorite go-to phrases?
Imagine a boss challenging a team to do some “out-of-the-box thinking” to solve a corporate problem? As Dilbert confirms, she’d be jeered figuratively if not literally.
Fortunately, much of bizspeak has a short life; even the atonal recognize duds like “drill down”
“ducks in a row” and “paradigm shift”.
It takes only a bit of ridicule by the wokest workers who, while totally au courant with the moment, are among the most cliché-ridden. Still, they call the tune on corporate speak – just like the habitues of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
So, why does “going forward” linger linguistically?
Some believe it suggests a sense of action, purpose, and direction.
More likely it’s alleged vitality stems from its service to “pivot” (another bizspeak cliché).
Going forward” often follows an admission of and apology for some egregious action or unpopular policy decision. Or it may merely be “some sort of inconvenient or unpleasant reality”.
The words following Going Forward can be a promissory sop to those silenced – the politically incorrect losers - by some pressure group.
The pivot leaves the unsavory and untenable (we have now “been there and done that”) and looks ahead to a happier tomorrow in which the wrongs of yesterday will have melted away.
Actually, the pivot only serves to further disgruntle the disgruntled.
Then again, there is something magisterial, even orotund, about invoking “Going Forward”. The speaker believes himself to be endowed with an oracular insight and it is only right and just to speak glowingly about the future under his leadership. In the leader’s eyes the term is far better than admitting ignorance about the future.
The phrase is a dead giveaway for bending the truth; and it is dismissive of any hearer’s ability to “read between the lines” and to understand what really is going on.
Like one book’s character who always prefaced his lies with “Actually…” “moving forward” .
signals insincerity and that what follows cannot be held accountable. It’s why the pivot usually includes several caveats, maybes, even “God willings”!
Does the speaker/ writer really not know that the phrase is unnecessary? Leaving it out helps the meaning get across; yet they use it. Why?
Maybe it’s a dodge so the leader does not have to come clean and admit, “I don’t know.”

© Copyright all text John Lubans 2021

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