Beliefs, Truths, and Decision-Making - Joshua Tree Leadership

Beliefs, Truths, and Decision-Making

Humans are adaptable, and innately develop path-habits to quickly make decisions. This system of developing decision-making habits points to hard-wired processes which, according to evolutionary psychologists, evolved 10,000 years ago. However, if the pathway is flawed, or at the very least needs improvement, what then? Furthermore, are there systems or processes that can be deployed to determine flawed beliefs, or similarly important, test-in-use?

Accountable leaders challenge themselves to evaluate their belief systems on a regular basis, which, as noted, can be in diametric opposition to their hard-wired decision-making processes. As an example, early in my executive career, I was faced with a challenge that presented me with the chance to question my beliefs, and I completely missed the opportunity. Luckily, I was fortunate to receive constructive feedback from the CEO (this individual, thankfully, became a mentor; full disclosure, I did not exactly at the time see the feedback as a blessing), asking me, “Is the way you want it done the best way, or is it simply your way?” This elegant question immediately confronted my belief system, and upon reflection what I thought was correct, could not have been further from the truth. I have applied this straightforward lesson more times that I can count, and I often share it with others, which incidentally, equally serves as a reminder to continue to assess my beliefs.

Another method of testing is through a comparison process against a predetermined system of fundamental truths – In 1986, H. James Harrington, author, and former president of the American Society of Quality (ASQ), published his list of fundamental truths (Harrington) related to quality (number four is highlighted for emphasis) – Fast forward *thirty-five years, and it is clear that Harrington’s list holds up against scrutiny, serving well as a cross-check resource

Harrington’s Thirteen Fundamental Truths

1. All organizations, companies, divisions, sections, departments, units, teams, and projects should have a documented mission that links them into a chain that holds the organization together, keeping it directed at pulling in all of the potential customers that they can handle.
2. All processes should have a defined customer whose needs and expectations are understood and are being met.
3. No process is so good that it can’t be improved although some processes need improvement more than others.
4. There is always a better way of doing everything.
5. The greatest competitive advantage is knowledge that leads to innovation.
6. People who understand why they do something do it better and faster.
7. When something gets measured, it gets attention
8. There is a direct correlation between internal customer satisfaction and external customer satisfaction.
9. Every organization has an obligation to provide value to the people that invest their hard-earned money and time into the organization.
10. Expending resources related to the organization’s employees is an investment, not a cost.
11. The elimination of waste is everyone’s job.
12. Management needs to set the example and walk the talk.
13. Each individual needs to be sure that his/her suppliers understand what are [sic] needed and not ask for things that won’t be used.
(*It is worth noting that validating fundamental truths prior to comparison testing is essential – the Lindy Effect is a useful tool to test a fundamental truth’s longevity/validation)

The number of daily decisions that the average human being makes is enormous, and Cornell researchers (Wansink and Sobal) have determined that humans make over two hundred daily decisions just about food! Challenging one’s beliefs, is simple, not easy; however, the leader that ensures their beliefs undergo regular recalibration can move the success needle. This process is why Dr. Larina Kase says, “great leaders, are great decision-makers.”

Works Cited

Harrington, H James. “Thirteen Fundamental Truths.” 13 Fundamental Truths, 11 Apr. 2011,
Kase, Larina. “Great Leaders Are Great Decision-Makers.” Graziadio Business Review | Graziadio School of Business and Management | Pepperdine University, 30 Oct. 2017,
Wansink, Brian, and Jeffery Sobal. “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook.” SSRN, 10 Jan. 2016,

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