Stalls That Stop You From Achieving More

Samuel Okoro

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The eight step process described in our last article for creating 2000 Percent solutions are amazingly simple. However, they require a mindset unhampered by individual or organisational stalls. Stalls tend to make individuals and organisations think and act in a “default mode" at the very times when fresh, creative, out-of-the-box thinking is required: when resources are few, when competition is fierce, when customer tastes are changing and their demands are stringent. The result is stagnation or at best incremental improvements and at worst deterioration. The following are some types of personal and organisational stalls, as identified by the inventors of the 2000 Percent Solution process, Don Mitchell and Carol Coles.

The Tradition Stall

Do you often catch yourself saying the equivalent of “that's the way we've always done it here?" Then you're a victim of the tradition stall. This stall leads individuals to retain practices and policies that have long outlived their usefulness.

A company operated dining facilities where workers had their meals. Usually they purchased meal vouchers from the accounts section, in packs adequate for five meals (equivalent of one week of lunches). Workers paid about five cents (in local currency) for a pack of these tickets. So you could say the meals were more or less free. Meanwhile, an accounting clerk had to keep manual records of these transactions which took up about ten percent of his time. The amounts of money involved were of negligible value to the organisation. No one knew why the tickets were still being used, and no one wanted to be the one to instruct their stoppage.

The Disbelief Stall

The new and innovative tends to meet everywhere with skepticism. We could draw up a long list of “famous last words" of the unbelieving reactions of the leading lights of the day when important changes involving a significant shift in paradigm were proposed. “Everything that can be invented has been invented. " attributed to Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U. S. Office of Patents, 1899

"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances. " Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and father of television.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil?

You're crazy. " Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. " Admiral William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project.

"I think there's a world market for maybe five computers. " Thomas J Watson, Chairman of the Board, IBM, 1943.

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year. " The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.

The Unattractiveness Stall

It is often a mistake to avoid seemingly unattractive situations and problems. As often as not, they conceal opportunities not available in more attractive circumstances.

A young man started out a professional services business, tailoring his offerings to the larger organisations which he felt would be better sources of revenue. The larger organisations ignored him for the most part. On the other hand, smaller organisation that heard of his services actively sought him out. His misgivings about their attractiveness as sources of revenue were allayed by creative arrangements through which demand was aggregated and third party funding obtained to enable the small organisations use his services.

The Bureaucracy Stall

This stall usually manifests as tortuous procedures, layers of authority, lengthy approval chains and the like. All this without a corresponding benefit to the organisation. We told the story in our first article of the compan y thart conducted an experiment to check the thoroughness of approvers in their chain. A request for approval was sent out. The top sheet had the usual summary and dotted lines for signatures. All the following sheets (which should havew contained supporting facts and arguments) were blank. The “request" was approved.

The Procrastination Stall

Do you do more than your fair share of “sleeping on" ideas instead of reaching definite decisions and acting on them? Beware the procrastination stall.

One of my favourite reminders of the dangers of procrastination is the nursery rhyme about the battle and kingdom that were lost “for want of a horse-shoe nail". I imagine the owner of the horse noticing that the nail had come off the horse-shoe planning to replace it sometime. He apparently was still planning to replace it when the horse shoe came off the horse's hoof. The loss of the horse shoe eventually led to the loss of the horse, its rider, the battle and the whole kingdom, in that order.

To discover more about these and other stalls and how to overcome them you can read all but two chapters of The 2,000 Percent Solution for free at

Samuel Okoro is the CEO of Leapfrog Alliance Ltd, a management training and consulting firm that helps organisations to reduce costs and improve quality through better business processes. His personal passion is to help move Third World business to world-class levels. For further details please visit


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