Agile beyond IT - Applying Kanban in HR functions for enterprise agility

Human Resources is an important function of an organization today. Like before, it's no more all about recruitment and people management but a complete paradigm shift on People Development. Today's organizations are more knowledge workers and hence they are no more looking out for jobs but are aspiring for long lasting and rewarding careers.

However, HR practices that are followed today are many a times still primitive and not updated to match with the aspirations of today's players. A shift in mind set and practices are very much the need of the day if an organization truly wants to develop its people and create a knowledge organization.

Kanban is an extremely effective way to bring in Resilience into the HR practices. This paper will walkthrough the case study of how HR has been implemented successfully in my client organization to keep up with both the speed and the development aspects of the organization.

We used most of the key Kanban principles while applying Kanban for the HR team. Here is an example for one of the HR teams – Talent Acquisition – on how Kanban was implemented: I will have multiple examples in the ppt.


  1. Visualize the workflow - we used this specifically in the talent acquisition teams to track the number of applications, applications selected, interviews lined up, offers rolled out and candidate joining. These were the columns we used in our Kanban board and each item was tracked and during the daily stand up, if any of the line item was in the same column for more than 3 working days. Each column was further split into – To Do, WIP and Completed (refer to the ppt for the visual of the board)
  2. Applying WIP Limits – We had a two –way limit to the WIP – one at the time level with a 3 working day limit for completing the pending work and second – not having more than 3 work items on the board
  3. Manage flow – since the requests for hire come from all over the organization, managing flow and identifying a point of contact for the business units was critical and helped manage the flow and predict the flow for the future as well
  4. Make process and policies explicit – since all of the business units are the customers, being transparent with them on making the hiring process explicit and bringing them into the Kanban fold was essential
  5. Feedback – As all the business units are the customers, taking a monthly feedback on the talent acquisition process and a retrospection on the feedback for continuous improvement was essential
  6. Improve and Evolve – Improving on the feedback as well as inspections within the team and evolving as an efficient lean team was not just a principle for us but it was our Goal!

The key problem we were trying to solve were:

1. Agility in IT only can only bring that much change and will continue to be constrained on human factors. Hence agility should go beyond software development and we started with HR to begin with.

2. Agile is a team and people focused philosophy. If these are ignored, the initial improvements we will see in IT will stagnate without able support from the HR function over a period of time. So to sustain the IT agility, it's essential we go beyond to bring in enterprise agility

The key measures that helped us to tell that we are in the right direction were:

1. Frequent feedback - from teams, managers, stakeholders on any new changes / processes we introduce (e.g.: managing recruitment pipeline for various business units - current # of days vs post Kanban implementation days etc)

2. Feedback from candidates on recruitment experience

3. Learning & Development progress - participation, applying the learning

4. Feedback on new performance / talent development process

All changes were introduced gradually and frequent inspect and adapt helped in streamlining the gaps. We looked not only at Kanban principles but also the 4 values and 12 principles of agile manifesto to see and measure our progress.

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Outline/structure of the Session

It will be a 45 minutes ppt based session with the following agenda: 

  1. Introduction to Kanban – 5 minutes
  2. Kanband principles – understanding empirically – 5 minutes
  3. Kanban beyond IT – 5 minutes
  4. Kanban for HR – deep dive – 15 minutes
  5. Advantages / benefits – 5 minutes
  6. Do’s and Don’ts – 2-3 minutes
  7. Q&A and wrap up – 6-8 minutes

Learning Outcome


  1. Understanding Kanban principles in its true spirit beyond theory
  2. Applying Kanban in HR teams and how it fits so well
  3. Advantages of Kanban in HR Teams
  4. Dos and Donts before and during the Kanban journey


Target Audience

All senior management team planning for enterprise transformation

schedule Submitted 9 months ago

Comments Subscribe to Comments

comment Comment on this Proposal
  • Jutta Eckstein
    By Jutta Eckstein  ~  8 months ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Padma,

    I know that you plan to cover a lot of stuff. However, can you imagine presenting a more focused version in 20min?

    Thanks, Jutta

    • Padma Satyamurthy
      By Padma Satyamurthy  ~  8 months ago
      reply Reply

      Hello Jutta,

      Thanks for the comment.

      20 minutes may be a bit tight. But I can lean out the content to focus on problem area and solution and leave out other information to fit in 20 minutes. It's doable.




  • Ashay Saxena
    By Ashay Saxena  ~  9 months ago
    reply Reply

    Hello Padma,


    Interesting proposal! I request you to update the proposal based on your responses to the other reviewer comments. As a further comment, you may want to reconsider the title of the talk - Agile beyond IT seems a bit generic and slightly misleading, considering that the talk is entirely focused on 'Kanban' and 'HR'. As you go about updating the proposal, you might as well begin with the title :)




    • Padma Satyamurthy
      By Padma Satyamurthy  ~  8 months ago
      reply Reply

      Hello Ashay,

      Thanks for your inputs. It's a great suggestion to look at renaming my proposal. I am looking renaming the proposal as "Agile beyond IT - Applying Kanban in HR functions for enterprise agility". Keep your inputs coming in to strengthen my proposal.




  • Balaji Ganesh N
    By Balaji Ganesh N  ~  9 months ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Padma,

    Since most of us are aware of kanban, it will be great if you could elaborate more on how you implemented kanban with HR teams, learning, impact / benefits from the same and how Kanban enhanced resilience. Can you please share some more details on these lines.

    The above will make this proposal more valuable for the audience.


    • Padma Satyamurthy
      By Padma Satyamurthy  ~  9 months ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks Balaji for your time and the comment.

      As we know, Kanban is widely used in IT and specially in IT operations. However, while focusing on IT teams, the other enabler teams like HR, Finance and Sales and Marketing continue to be waterfall. This makes IT teams to scale up and meet the market demands. This is based on a case study with one of the client that I coached with. The focus on was on 4 key HR functions - Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development, Reward and Retain and Career Progression. The key benefits were through WIP limits and visual boards which resulted in bringing down hiring time for the talent acquisition team, pull based learning and development activities which are tied to the individual and team goals and driven by both team development leaders and L&D team, innovative reward and retain strategies based on intrinsic motivation of individuals and career progression both horizontal and vertical growths. 

      The reason the whole initiative was successful was ease of use of Kanban. The HR team didn't need to go through new training but could adopt from where they were. The metrics were retained to show benefits, the current roles and processes were respected while bringing incremental changes to the way current process yielded results. 

      The hiring team was able to reduce the lead time by as much as 30 = 50%. The roles and responsibilities were redefined to suit the current agile team roles like scrum master, product owner etc to help them understand their roles better. Moving away from annual career development discussions to fast and frequent feedback to strengthen the agile transformation.

      Let me know if this helps or you had like me to elaborate more on any other specific point.

  • Prasad
    By Prasad  ~  9 months ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Padma, 

    Thanks for the proposal. I understand the adaptation angle of Kanban to other facets of work / area / function / life.  Most of the audience knows fundamentals  of Kanban. What makes this a great talk which has got a great take away for audience is 

    - What problem we are trying to solve 

    - What org change and design and operating model HR underwent 

    - What KPIs this change influenced 

    - What next?

    • Padma Satyamurthy
      By Padma Satyamurthy  ~  9 months ago
      reply Reply

      Hello Prasad,

      Thanks for your response.

      I like couple of points you have mentioned - KPI and what next. Yes, I had like to focus on these in the talk which I know will highlight the problem we are trying to solve and how my client organization when though the design and operating model change the HR went through.

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