Planning under uncertainty

Written by Dr Philipp Wunderlich.

Last week, the current world chess champion Magnus Carlsen played a match against Hikaru Nakamura. They did not play standard chess, however, but a variant of chess called “Chess960”, in which Hikaru Nakamura has been the unofficial world champion.

Simply put, Chess960 differs from standard chess in that the initial setup of the board is created by shuffling the main pieces on the first and eighth rank, resulting in 960 possible starting positions.

The increased uncertainty about the starting position makes it almost impossible for players to prepare before the games. In addition, theory about how to respond to certain openings is very limited. Nevertheless, players need to plan their next moves to win the game.

Like the starting position a player faces in Chess960, human resource managers frequently face new challenges which need to be addressed. They need to come up with a plan. However, managers often realize that most plans are disappointingly short-lived. In times of massive digitalisation and automation, the assumptions for every new planning cycle have become more uncertain, much like in Chess960. So how is planning at all possible?

Relevance of theory to chess

Normal chess


Relevance of past practices to SWP

Information era

Digitalisation era

In chess, a player’s ability to think of a response to the possible next moves of the opponent is limited, especially in the unmapped territory of Chess960. Even though not all moves can be calculated ahead, there are certain patterns and rules chess players can use for guidance. For example, it is generally good to control the centre of the board, thereby extending the reach of your pieces.

In terms of strategic workforce planning, such a rule might for example be that workforce demand and supply should match. There are different ways to reach that goal. Similar to how chess players need to find the best move to strengthen the centre, HR planners need to find the best combination of measures to adjust either demand, supply, or both.

Knowing about these rules and how to get there allows players as well as planners to focus on the critical aspects of the challenges they face. That is why world champions are not only the best at standard chess, but also at Chess960.

Based on our vast experience and powerful solutions, we at Dynaplan can guide and enable you to quickly play through possible scenarios whenever needed, and find the best move to reach your targets.



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