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Lifestyle Pattern Jigsaw

Published on 27 August 2019

Lifestyle Pattern Jigsaw

Lifestyle Pattern Jigsaw, the puzzle of almost infinite outcomes restricted by a lack of understanding and bad practice, only limited by business knowledge and our imagination.

Not for the first time, over the Christmas period I found myself immersed with 1,000-piece jigsaw. Looking for edges and obvious parts of the picture, I was slowly able to piece together sections of the overall picture. I would hit an easy section when one piece would go in and it would seem to create a slipstream effect for the next 10 to 20 pieces. I then hit a difficult section, where it felt like it was almost impossible to complete, pieces that looked the same, all the same colour and contrast. I then realised I’d put some pieces into the wrong place! Fully committed to completing the jigsaw, I started working in short bursts finding that stepping away from staring at pieces gave me a different perspective when I returned. Eventually, the jigsaw was complete with a feeling of relief and fulfilment.

Jigsaws have been used as a metaphor for resource planning scheduling, as building shifts patterns are very much like different pieces of a jigsaw. However, I wanted to develop this metaphor a little further as the complexity of scheduling is ultimately down to the picture we create and the amount of pieces we cut. The easiest jigsaws are basic pictures/colours with fewer pieces, the more pieces we add and the more contrasts we add to the picture the more complicated and harder to complete. Scheduling can feel like completing a jigsaw without an image, or possibly worse a picture which keeps changing as different stakeholders have different pictures. Crucially, the picture needs to be flexible, however this also needs to be defined, as different starting positions will require different pieces to meet changing needs.

With this is mind our first consideration for scheduling is to create our picture and most importantly develop the understanding across the business of this image. In business speak, this should be the operating model. A pre-agreed and budgeted set of parametres which enable the strategy to be implemented, with a clear understanding of the levers available to meet changing demands. 

My experience of this is that too many organisations simply sign-off a headcount budget, then resource planners are left to make the people fit whilst the organisation keeps changing the picture. 

Top Tips to complete a Jigsaw 

1.     Corner pieces, borders and edges: The edges have defined end points and join to fewer pieces. For resource planning purposes the edges are considerations like: opening hours, skills and work groups, routing strategy, service levels, fixed pattern shifts, etc. All defined rules which need to be mapped, creating an operating model. These are your limits and clear points of reference. In some cases these “edges” change at different points of the year, if this is the case then create a new picture and understand the impact on the main body of the image.

2.     High contrast areas, faces, images: When we have clearly defined plans in place, we can easily piece together the different parts. When there is a lack of focus and too many “grey-areas” it becomes increasingly difficult to places pieces in the right places. To complete a jigsaw, we are drawn to parts picture which are more defined, e.g. faces or buildings, the more defined the easier to build. When these rules change, e.g. skill sets, attrition, absence, etc. the definitions change requiring new pieces to join. The implications of small changes are often not understood, however by having a picture to compare the changes we can improve our impact assessment and make better decisions.  

3.     Build out from what you can see and know: When the image of a jigsaw lacks contrast, and typically contains the same colour, it can be difficult to know where to place to next piece. By building out from what we know we have greater confidence and certainty of what’s required. Creating an operating model and a scheduling/flexibility strategy builds a picture which your people can choose.  

4.     Know when the piece doesn’t fit: You wouldn’t mix a jigsaw and attempt to fit two pieces from completely different images, sizes, etc. Don’t do the equivalent with resource scheduling. Know when the piece doesn’t fit and look for a different solution. Sometimes the cost of making a piece fit is far greater than the cost of investing in the right piece.

I hope from reading this you haven’t thought that the easiest jigsaw, simple picture with fewer pieces if the best option. A single piece jigsaw of single colour is a piece of paper, so please don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. The most fulfilling jigsaws have beautiful images and are made up of lots of individual pieces. Though challenging to complete, with offer you the most fulfilment and satisfaction for the people/pieces. 

Date Published: 27/08/2019

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