Your Backlog Nullifies Your Strategy

Your company values are defined by the worst behaviors permitted within your business.


I always thought that was a rather negative world view. But it helped me to think of defining business performance in terms of our habituations. In Behavioral Science, people habituate to a stimulus, which is the opposite of forming a habit. It means we normalize to something and stop responding to it. At home, the pile of old Tupperware and clothes we’ve been meaning to donate to charity have been sitting for months collecting dust. We don’t even notice it sitting there on the floor anymore. We’ve habituated to the pile…for a lot of common reasons. Inconvenience of dropping the pile off to a charity. Minimizing the problem by telling ourselves it’s just a small pile. Procrastinating since there is always something more important or urgent which needs our attention. Do any of these reasons sound familiar?


“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu

Around the large, plush table sits the entire executive IT team. The VP of Infrastructure and Operations is the last person to present her piece of the strategy from the slide deck. She asks with a proud smile: “Well Elliot, what do you think of our 5-year IT strategy?”

“It is remarkably consistent with the strategies of IT departments at other companies I’ve visited for the first time.” Elliot replied.

“I’m honored that you invited me here today and greatly appreciate your presentations.” Elliot said. “As you know from referrals, I like to dive right in and also value respectful candor. So, let’s switch gears. Did you invite your Data Scientists to this meeting like we discussed?”

The ERP VP spoke up, “We don’t have those, but Leah knows all our data and can report on anything.”

“Good.” replied Elliot. “Leah, I’m going to ask the executive team several questions. Please attempt to find the answers while we are talking. However, let the leaders try to answer the questions first. Thank you.”

Elliot continued, “Will someone tell me what is the oldest ticket in your backlog, starting with your ticketing system?”

Everybody went quiet. They stared at Elliot. And then tried to covertly look at the CIO to figure out why their time was getting wasted talking s

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