Podcast #294 – Clay Linkous, Studer Group Principles & #Lean


Joining me for episode #294 is Clay Linkous, an account leader and speaker with Studer Group. He is an accomplished cultural transformation and leadership expert who has synthesized Lean and other improvement methods with Studer Group principles and practices.

Today, we'll talk about Clay's career and his purpose and motivations – both for working in healthcare and improving healthcare. We're both firm believers in the combination of Studer and Lean practices, so we're also discussing that as our main topic.

I hope you enjoy the discussion!

Streaming Player (Run Time 48:40)

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For a link to use for this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/294.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android apps, or via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher.

  • My opening AIDET
  • Please tell us about how you started off in healthcare. Why healthcare? Where does your fire come from?
  • How and when did you get introduced to Lean and “Performance Improvement?”
    • He learned from Chuck Noon, PhD, a guest in episode #120.
    • “Well-intentioned Lean practitioners who are ‘head people' get excited about improving metrics, but forget about the ‘heart' people. I can't be just about the numbers.”
    • “Process improvement will struggle if it's a standalone… leadership matters.”
  • When and why did you transition to Studer Group? Can you tell listeners a bit about Studer Group, as well?
  • When I first got into healthcare in 2005, a number of hospital people recommend Quint Studer‘s Hardwiring Excellence and I saw a lot of conceptual parallels, leadership principles that reminded me of Lean. How do you see Lean and Studer Principles fitting together?
  • What are some examples of organizations that have combined Studer Principles and Lean?
    • Baptist Health – check out the work of Skip Steward and others there
  • How can leaders avoid confusing people when combining Lean and Studer?
    1. Language matters (what you call your improvement methodology or program)
    2. Change management matters (as a process of change)
    3. Having a leadership accountability system matters.
  • What advice do you have for healthcare leaders in these times that are full of a lot of uncertainty and change?
    • Focus on what you can control and influence:
      1. Connect the work to the purpose, reengage stakeholders
      2. Focus on your culture, be an amazing place to work

Disclosure: In 2017, I became a speaker through Studer Group in addition to my other work and roles, so I have a working relationship with them.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I really enjoyed this podcast. I had felt for a long time that the Studer and Lean philosophies shared a lot in common, especially the concept of Servant Leadership as Mark pointed out. Clay’s description of the Shingo Model and how it aligns with Studer thinking also clarified the relationship. I may have to get out my copy of Hardwiring Excellence again and give it another read.

    Thanks for a fine podcast, guys.


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