Do your business processes look like a bowl of spaghetti?

(Previously published on LinkedIn August 30, 2016)

Finding your way through tangled business processes can be like untangling spaghetti!

Business process tangles arise as business processes evolve and change to meet new requirements. These requirements may arise from new opportunities or threats, for example from organic growth, new markets or new regulations. It may mean that an urgent requirement to produce a product or service demands employees best efforts to define and join a number of activities between order and delivery. These activities are then an unofficial process or workaround and if successful, will be reused and amended for future use. Workarounds may be added to workarounds, resulting in confusion, duplication and error. (See here for details on how tangles arise)

Tangles can also occur when they are bought into an organisation via acquisition or partnership. Typically, as long as the services or products are delivered against customer orders and profits are being made, the efficiency and consistency of these processes is unknown.

When faced with a mass of disconnected business processes that all have different ways of getting from order to delivery, it may be difficult to know where to start.

The first step is to find the documented processes. Typically these will be in a multitude of locations, which may or may not be controlled and known to management.   The documented processes and the actual processes used by people may be very different.

Start by gathering all the documented processes that you can find and assign them under the headings of the RARDAR model below.

You will the end up with what looks like a bar chart:

Each column should contain all the known versions of the processes that fit under that heading, including all business rules, references, decision criteria and everything else that makes that process work to the requirements of the business, customers and regulators.

These processes should then be assessed as described following:

Evaluating Processes

Unpicking a process tangle reveals what is in it, why it’s there and if it is needed. Each identified process and activity will fit somewhere on the 2×2 matrix below. Processes approved for use within the business should then be formally registered and placed under change control.

To communicate the progress of a process untangling project, current status can shown simply in a heat map spreadsheet:

Advertise the progress of your process improvement within your organisation, perhaps using a dedicated intranet page. As people hear about it, they may wish to contribute other processes that were missed in the first review.


As organisations grow organically or as a result of acquisition, their business processes can become tangled, causing inconsistency, delay and error.   I untangle these processes into clearly documented, simplified and lean business processes that show what people do, why they do it, how they do it and who they do it for.

For more information or if you have any questions, please visit or You can contact me at or mobile +44(0)7828 438088.