Tending the Fires of 21st Century Organizations
Since the back log is usually large and quite heavy, it offers its own unique challenges. I often imagine myself in dialogue with this log. It is saying to me:
I am huge! Come on big shot, try to lift me and see if you can set me on the grate. . . . Not much success . . . The tongs won’t help you either. . . . not easy is it? But I am ultimately worth the effort, because I will be with you for many evenings of warmth and glow. And I can assist my much smaller colleagues in providing you with a wonderful fire. We are all in this together!
Later, as the back log slowly burned away, I find myself grieving its slow death. The log speaks to me again:
Now I am an old log and will soon be gone. I am helping other logs to flame and am helping to keep them alive. I have led a good life and leave my legacy in the logs that follow me. I hope that you can appreciate my presence on your fireplace grate . . . even though I know I caused you some problems when you first tried to position me in the appropriate place on your fireplace.
I like to listen to this old log and am learning about growing old and remaining generative from this once big and heavy entity.
In an organization, the “back log” might initially seem to be the “cash cow” (Boston Consulting Group) – but I think it is much more than this economically based back log. The back log can be the reputation of the organization’s products and services; it can also be the long-standing banking relationship or an informal long-standing partnership. I was fortunate for many years to have a long-standing partnership with a colleague from Asia. He provided my business with financial assistance whenever requested. We had only a hand-shake agreement—no official legal documents. I was there for him whenever he needed me to teach or consult with his associates in Asia. This trusting relationship was of great value to both of us – yet it had no formal economic value. Our agreement was a major back log for both of us and it sought out our mutual appreciation on frequent occasion (usually during a sumptuous multi-course banquet in a Chinese restaurant). Most Asian cultures are fully conversant with the back log’s request. It is not about economics.