The expression long pole in the tent is used to describe the longest, hardest, and most critical part of a task that needs to be done.
Additionally, it can refer to somebody or something that is delaying a task.
The phrase’s origin is not entirely certain, some believe that it comes from engineering, others say it’s a term that can be connected to aviation.
A very popular and maybe the most logical explanation, however, is that the expression comes from hiking and the activity of setting up a tent.
This suggests that it was originally used as a metaphor, as the longest pole in a tent is the one that has to bear the most weight, and will determine the height of the tent, making it the perfect analogy to a heavy task.
In conclusion, this expression is quite versatile, and can be applied in a variety of situations that involve challenges or heavy tasks.
The term is often featured in business-related books and literature, like in Ron Sturgeon’s 2005 book Green Weenies and Due Diligence: Insider Business Jargon.