Persistence is the Root Cause of Success

"Energy and persistence conquer all things." - Benjamin Franklin[1]

Persistence is defined as the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people[2]. The application of persistence to any task, interaction or goal is often what distinguishes between those who are successful and those who fail in any endeavor. Indeed, a lack of persistence or "giving up too soon" is one of the most common reasons for failure in any endeavor.[3]

"Energy and persistence conquer all things" – Benjamin Franklin

Having observed many successful and productive Quality Improvement (QI) teams has shown us that persistence is the root cause of their success in solving issues that have plagued organizations for decades. Conversely, when we observed QI teams that do not seem to gain traction in problem solving; the lack of being persistence is the root cause of their failure.

We learned in school that an object in motion continues to remain in motion. The brain equivalent of remaining in motion is persistence and this is what drives successful QI teams.

We often observe that even the most ordinary people achieve extraordinary results in an organization when they persist in searching for quality results, even when other routine activities try to interrupt and slow down improvement effort. Stephen R. Covey called this the "tyranny of the urgent", as the opportunity for real progress is sacrificed by attending to less important activities[4] Calvin Coolidge stated "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."[5]

The top ten characteristics we have observed over many years of working with successful QI teams that act with persistence are as follows:

  1. They develop a discrete, time bound, and measurable AIM Statement – the QI team members have a clear definition of the issue they are working on right from the start.
  2. They have momentum - they get right to work solving problems that their organization will benefit from.
  3. They do not delay in applying the tools of quality improvement after learning them.
  4. They move quickly through the Tuckman Stages[6] of forming, storming, and norming and get right to the performing stage. Team maturity is one key to building persistence into a QI team.
  5. They support their other team members with assistance and encouragement.
  6. They use and follow a defined and deliberate problem solving process such as PDCA as their guide to obtaining results.
  7. They develop a project plan which acts as a guide for the quality improvement effort.
  8. They meet regularly to keep their focus and recharge their energy toward achieving improvement goal.
  9. They do not let obstacles slow them down – they regroup when they hit an obstacle and develop contingencies to overcome it.
  10. They constantly keep their focus on the goal and persist in driving for results desired.


Think of the time you attended a seminar and had been inspired to go back to work and quickly implement and idea that you have learned. Often that great idea disappears quickly if we do not immediately practice our new learning and persist in using this learned new behavior

In Quality Improvement, we always look for the "root cause" of an issue so we can improve it. Root causes are issues or challenges that must be overcome to achieve success and getting the right things accomplished. There are root causes of failure and root causes of success. We believe that persistence is a root cause of successful Quality Improvement Teams.