This is a mirror post from a discussion group for future reference before it enters in the oblivion zone regarding a <post> of Wil van der Aalst called Process Mining: Desire Lines or Cow Paths?
The challenge that Wil is proposing is far beyond choosing the right path, is related to the fact that today people start to realize that there not only structured (cow path) processes that typically exist on companies highly coupled with compliance (like pharmaceuticals for example) or unstructured (the desired line) like how it happens in hospitals. Actually there is a <blend> of how people work and there is no black or white way to do the right thing.
Thus, I would like to put the challenge on other perspective: when decision makers need to make a choice of the best path to implement the most important fact is they can access all the possible paths (most used, often used, single use) and imagine others that were not discovered but could be implemented. On options evaluation or scenarios if you want, the best path is the one that is aligned and balanced regarding efficiency (cost, time, resources) effectiveness (outcomes, not outputs) corporate human culture (how people like to execute and collaborate) company assets (systems, physical infrastructure) and strategy (business objectives).
Sometimes the detour path path is excellent in speed but does not comply with regulation and other times is the best way to do it despite most of the people in the company did not discovered it. In the era of rising of unstructured work (that existed all the time, the relevance is we are experiencing the market entry of systems tailored to such kind of environments) some argue that there is no such thing of finding the best path and just let people free executing what is best to achieve regarding business rules.
Well, I discovered from my experience that despite there is no single way of reasoning, because we as humans react differently the multitude of sparks and signals (contrary of programed bots or systems) we can adapt to a better way of executing keeping our freedom of action and reasoning, learning with different practices executed by different people and for that we need to understand and take all the possible paths.