- Thomas H. Lee, MD
- Angela L. Duckworth
FROM THE SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE Executive Summary
Grit, a combination of passion and perseverance, predicts success in many demanding fields. A perfect example is health care, where the grit of individual doctors and nurses has saved many lives. But today providing superior care is so complex that no lone practitioner can do it all. Great care requires gritty teams that never stop striving for improvement and institutions that exhibit grit across entire systems of providers.
In this article Duckworth, the author of the best seller Grit, and Lee, a clinician and health care leader, describe health care’s new model of organizational grit. It begins with hiring people with grit—who love what they do, always want to get better, and are resilient in the face of setbacks. Their single-minded determination stems from a clear personal-goal hierarchy, in which shorter-term objectives support a top-level goal that gives direction to everything they do.
To be gritty, organizations must have a similar clarity about priorities, and their top-level goal and their employees’ must be aligned. If everyone is pursuing a separate passion, a culture won’t be gritty. The gritty health care organizations the authors have seen (such as Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic) all make “putting patients first” their overarching goal and use it to guide every decision. They also work to cultivate grit by, for example, setting high expectations; offering the resources, support, and trust people need to keep learning and growing; and establishing strong social norms that promote their top-level goal.
While the objectives of organizations in other sectors may differ, they can apply the principles the authors outline here to become gritty, too.
Thomas H. Lee, MD, is the chief medical officer of Press Ganey. He is a practicing internist and a professor (part time) of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Angela L. Duckworth is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the founder and CEO of Character Lab. She is the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner, 2016).