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When classic process thinking does more harm than good

Since the 1990s, companies have increasingly organised themselves into processes. In the meantime, they have done well with this, as regulated processes guarantee an optimal use of resources with the best possible results. Thinking in terms of processes has become the norm. Many companies still adhere to this model today. However, they are increasingly coming up against limits, even more so: process thinking sometimes does more harm than good.

Process thinking as dogma – outdated

Fixed processes fit well in a stable world with slowly changing markets. However, these times are over: coronavirus, the war in Ukraine, shortages of raw materials, staff shortages, digitalisation and many other developments show us what it means to work in dynamic markets.

The speed of change has taken on such dimensions that target processes defined yesterday may already be outdated tomorrow. Companies therefore invest a lot of time in updating their processes. According to Jens Ropers, Partner at the CA Academy, however, this is like trying to “force dynamism into standard processes”. The processes remain inefficient in the long term. There are no viable solutions for dynamic requirements. This weakens the company.

Different types of tasks require their own solutions

In view of this, companies are invited to rethink the requirement for self-organisation in processes: are they really the means of choice in every situation?

Standardised processes are still important. However, those responsible in companies should realise when it is better to focus on dynamics.

  • Where knowledge and experience lead to the best possible result; where knowledge and experience can be translated into processes and even automated, a process organisation is the obvious choice.
  • In other places, a “jointly supported target state” (Ropers) takes the place of a defined process.

If you are involved with agility, you will be familiar with this idea: the agreed target state serves as a guide along which employees make their own decisions. They choose their tools independently.

Flexible working: time-consuming, but unavoidable

In der Gegenwart werden die Unternehmen ihren Aufgaben nicht mehr damit Herr, dass die Mitarbeitenden Prozesse möglichst rational abarbeiten. Vielmehr treffen sie auf neue, bis zu dem Zeitpunkt ungelöste Probleme, die die Aufmerksamkeit binden und neue Lösungen fordern.
Die Unternehmen gehen deshalb vermehrt dazu über, die besten Köpfe ihres Unternehmens für eine Aufgabe zusammenzuziehen. Häufig ziehen sie Externe hinzu.

Controllers therefore have a new task: they are called upon to put together these teams and prepare their employees for the changed requirements of the working world. All of this is unavoidable, but it takes time.

Cost accounting by CKL Software

Flexible working requires freedom. Our apps from CKL Software support you in streamlining standard processes so that you have more time for other tasks – above all “Cost Accounting 365”. Why not attend one of our upcoming webinars and find out how you can generate up-to-date reports and analyses at the touch of a button.


Jens Ropers, Modernes Controlling ist „beidhändig“, Controller Magazin, Ausgabe 3/22

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