There are many 'management speak' constructs that baffle, amuse and provide opportunities to be cynical about the art of management and leadership.

Here is an illustration from a job advert from the Financial Times appointments section recently posted by an NHS organisation seeking a senior officer:

'…to secure continued excellence going forwards…'

There is, of course, nothing wrong with securing excellence - who would state or want anything less - 'we have tried excellence, and it is exhausting, so now we would be happy with anything above average'. I am digressing.

It is the word 'forward'. Is there really an alternative to '…going forwards…'? We have all been in organisations with people and parts that really have not changed since the 1970s. Even allowing for neglectful building maintenance programmes or deliberate efforts to live in the past, time can only travel in one direction, even in the NHS. We must, of course, consult history, learn from experiences and reflect on how best to avoid past mistakes, though it is worth reading the writings of troubled 20th-century French philosophers to get a perspective on learning from the past. I digress, again.

At the risk of stating the obvious, we cannot secure continued excellence going backwards, not unless you are made responsible for 're-reading' past performance data to fit a particular target. 2008 was the year when financial fortunes were reversed but management speak continued to flourish - let's see how often you spot the word 'forward' in its many guises in 2009. There are several more constructs from that advert but I will have to drip feed you - any faster and you will probably choke. I, of course, have become immune.

P.S. If you do get to Mark Learmonth's thesis on Rereading NHS management, it is a little heavy going in places but well worth the read. I have his permission to link to it in this blog.

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