Muda, Mura, and Muri: How to adopt a lean recruitment strategy

What can we learn from Toyota’s lean method – Muda, Mura, Muri – and apply it to recruitment?

Jan Söderström

Ditch That Junk, Ease Up Action and Attain Balance of Zen.


Many companies talk a good game about innovation, but in my opinion, I think one of the last areas in every company to focus on innovation is human resources and recruiting.

– Glen Cathey (@glencathey)

Muda. Mura. Muri.


In the 1980’s Toyota beat its competitors with these three words, rising to be the biggest global car manufacturer. These three words in Japanese mean wasteful (Muda), uneven(Mura), and overburden(Muri). Toyota started to maximize everything which added value and eliminate everything useless. A lean method was born, and Toyota’s success was inevitable.


Nowadays, the lean method is a widely used principle, but it’s still in its baby shoes when it comes to recruiting. As Glen Cathey, an expert in talent acquisition and global keynote speaker, above states, innovation is a fancy word that rarely reaches the company’s recruitment department. There, things are still done the old way, as they have always been done, with no changes (at this point, you can feel a sting of guilt freely).


However, recruitment going lean is something companies should take a serious look at – yes, you, too. As technology advances, different faster, and smoother recruitment tools are arising here and there – one of the biggest future trends being mobile-friendly recruitment. Those, who have understood the value of learning their recruitment steps, are also at the frontline in trying these new methods and easing their recruiters’ and candidates’ journey.


The fact is that the fastest of the bunch will catch the best fish from the candidate sea. The slower the recruitment is, the less talent the company can acquire. The first come first.


Eliminate, Adapt, Use Tech, and Appreciate


The candidate’s journey from the first contact to the hired position should be mapped to see where there is useless Muda, overburdening Muri, and uneven Mura. Four main areas in lean recruitment can be listed under these steps; Waste Elimination, Understanding Variability Recruiting, Use of Technologies, and Appreciating Recruiters.


Waste Elimination


Waste Elimination is step number one, where non-value adding activities are cut out from the recruitment. Such activities can be, for example, useless recruitment email floods, paper applications, and CVs, long recruitment processes, and stiff online formats. Unfortunately, these are still widely used in many companies and most likely you won’t be surprised to find them overburdening your recruiters and candidates, either. As a successful company, the main goal in recruiting should be making things a lot easier for everyone.


All this is unnecessary waste that can be eliminated if there’s will. Methods are already there, so it’s not about not finding the right ways or tools to do things. It’s all a matter of will and whether recruitment’s importance is truly understood at the core level. 


Understanding Variability Recruiting


Understanding Variability Recruiting is the same as adapting. The recruitment process is constantly alive depending on what kind of candidates are needed; are you in a search of a specific talent as fast as possible, do you have a silent time when things are running slowly, or are you in the middle of a storm where massive positions need multiple candidates.


As these changes happen in cycles, it is important to stay adaptive and predict the movements of recruitment beforehand by analyzing prior years’ recruitment phases. Isn’t there a famous idiom stating that “Half-planned is half done”, yes? If you analyze your prior cycles, you are a big step ahead of your competitors.


Understanding the variability in recruiting also means that the right tools are being utilized to make processes better and less wasteful. When the right tools are being used efficiently, smooth recruitment needs only a handful of recruiters to handle a high volume of candidates, even during the busiest times. This makes recruiting faster and more candidate friendly, too, polishing your company image at the same go. Pretty handy and neat! 


Use of Technologies


The use of Technologies allows recruitment to remain adaptable by applying modern technologies to improve recruitment – not to mention it eliminates waste from the whole process. This goes hand in hand with the first step. As technology is here to stay and advances constantly, it will be simply nuts not to use it to make things better, faster, and easier. Whether we talk about video recruiting tools, mobile-friendly applications, or shared Kanban boards, it doesn’t matter.


If your recruitment is old-fashioned, wonky, slow, or behind long formats and tens of clicks and attachments and different steps a candidate must go through just to apply to your open post, you have already lost the game.


Technology serves equally both you and your candidates. Don’t be afraid to use it and ditch the old methods. If we had no courage for the actions of tomorrow, we would still be living in caves. And speaking about technology, you simply can’t ignore the fact that people are spending 4 to 5 hours on their phones daily. Use that to your advantage. Just a little pro-tip, if you may. 


Appreciating Recruiters


Appreciating Recruiters enables you to see how they perform at their best. This is a proven fact and many studies show that people want to be appreciated in their work, in what they do. It doesn’t matter where you are from, what do you do, or in what culture you live. By appreciating your recruiters, you can be sure that they will find the best out of the best.


Show your appreciation by letting recruiters apply their people skills freely in recruitment and reward them based on how well they do. Offer them the best tools to do their work, as nothing says “I love you” better than understanding what bugs your employees at their work and offering a solution to it. Don’t let your recruiters drown in the email flood if you can get them a video recruiting tool. Don’t leave them alone to deal with long application formats, when you can make your recruitment mobile-friendly. It’s common sense that working is fun, easy, and effortless with the right tools for the right work.


Don’t micromanage, even if you’d love to get your hands dirty here and there. Trust your recruiters, let them solve problems, and learn. As they master their process and solve problems themselves in an autonomous way, they will get better and better at their job. 


The best thing in lean recruitment is that once you get the process running, it will learn more and more, getting smoother and easier as time goes by. It will work almost like the magical machine Sampo from Finland’s national epoch Kalevala; bringing more prosperity, physically measurable results, and all the good the longer it runs.


To get started, you can check out our Lean Recruitment Book here. It’s all free, so don’t be shy; help yourself!

Is recruitment modern at your workplace? Download this handbook to find practical tips and tool in adapting lean principles to your recruitment.