Dealing with an Overwhelming Backlog

"Backlog. Noun. 1. a reserve or accumulation, as of stock, work, or business. 2. A large log at the back of a hearth to keep up a fire." — Dictionary.com

My recent trip to our can and bottle redemption center provided me with an excellent example of an overwhelming backlog. The center had received so many items over the weeks that they were being placed in large bags and heaved up on to an ever growing mountain of items to be redeemed.

I know that many of my product development clients face similar situations as marketing, customers, and they themselves continuously generate new ideas that would be great for them to develop. This backlog unfortunately is often a source of frustration and even friction between groups.

Three lessons from the redemption center to consider.

Provide easy ways for the requestors to sort out ideas. The shapes and sizes of things to be returned vary greatly. The center provides right-sized boxes to sort things into with examples of each such that people coming in, even newbies, know what to do.

Gently reject unredeemable items. Even my family who is a pro at returning our cans occasionally has in our pile items that are not acceptable. There is a screening of the things we offer to the center and they only accept the "good" ones.

Rejoice in the backlog. I looked about the room that was overflowing. I watched the man throwing the bags to the top of the record size mountain. I asked him if it was stressful. He laughed and waved his arm to encompass the whole room full of cans. "This," he said "is all profit."

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT