Business Process Modeling in the 1920s and 1930s as reflected in Fritz Nordsieck's PhD Thesis

  • Jan Mendling Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Keywords: Business Process Modeling, Organizational Routines, Workflow Charts, Fritz Nordsieck


The PhD thesis by Fritz Nordsieck submitted in 1931 was one of the first scientific works in Germany that focused explicitly on business process models. Although the general contributions of Nordsieck to the study of business processes is often acknowledged, there is hardly any reflection on his specific findings on process modeling in any of the works after World War II. This is problematic since research on process modeling often assumes that later works on Petri nets and IDEF in the 1960s defined the starting point of process modeling.
In this article, we discuss the contributions of Nordsieck's thesis. We find that the practice of workflow modeling was already richly developed in the 1920s. Even though some present-day concepts were still missing, the thesis still has the potential to inform contemporary research. Most important is the discussion of different categories of diagrams on a spectrum from spatio-temporal to conceptual, which demonstrates the need of re-integrating ideas from information visualization and conceptual modeling, two fields that have been artificially separated and researched by different communities over the last 40 years.

Special Issue on 100 Years of Graphical Business Process Modelling