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Vital Lies

We have all experienced situations that strongly suggest we take a different direction or course of action than we have been. For some, it might be as personal and dramatic as a car accident after driving more than a little beyond the speed limit. For others, it could be seeing a competitor do to us before we could do to them. When confronted with the possibility that some change is needed, we may give a variety of reasons why the alternatives won’t really work: If we don’t drive faster than the speed limit we’ll be late or we’ll hold up those behind us; we will soon beat the competitor because of our superior strategy, technology or people (that we just haven’t fully deployed yet). We call these things vital lies: All the justification, often unsupported or inappropriate, we give as excuses for continuing current practices.



Vital Lies are limiting assumptions or beliefs.

They are used as justification (unfounded or inappropriate) for current practices.

Vital lies offer excuses for not changing.

They can prevent pursuit of the possible.



There are discrete steps you can take to combat and eliminate vital lies, including these:

  • Get them stated aloud. A verbalized assumption is one that can be examined in the light of critical analysis.
  • Empower and encourage everyone hearing a vital lie to name it as such. This is like encouraging the emperor’s subjects to proclaim he is wearing no clothes.
  • Provide evidence and illustrations that demonstrate why the vital lie is unsupported by fact.
  • Recognize and reward the truth-tellers.
  • Promote the new finding wherever possible to supplant the old vital lie.
  • Wear a button listed in products.


 Our Favorite Vital Lies to Stamp Out!

  • Satisfaction will occur if dissatisfaction declines
  • We are on the leading edge in our industry
  • Growth in customer demand or market share means customers are satisfied
  • We know what business we are in
  • We know who our customers are
  • The most important customers have priority
  • Customers don’t know what they want
  • They haven’t said they want that
  • We know what customers want
  • What customers say they expect is actually what they want
  • Our performance measures confirm our excellence
  • We can’t control that
  • Redundancy ensures we have checks and balances
  • That’s a secret
  • It’s just a fluke
  • This is not our real work
  • Every situation is different
  • You can’t measure that
  • There isn’t any data
  • They don’t know what they are doing
  • Customers speak in tongues; it’s impossible for anyone to understand
  • We don’t get many complaints so we know our customers are satisfied
  • We’re meeting all the standards
  • Employees are not the customers
  • That doesn’t apply. We’re a service business.