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Growing our understanding of metaphors

Hans Nouwens
July 13, 2023

Another interesting metaphor I’m discovering is that of a garden. This time I use a garden to explain my own role, and an organisation. Carefully prompting, partially, and gracefully re-using AI generated text.

The Enterprise Architect as a garden designer

Using the garden metaphor, an enterprise architect can be compared to a landscape architect or garden designer. Just as a landscape architect plans and designs a garden to create a harmonious and functional space, an enterprise architect designs and shapes the overall structure and framework of an organisation.

The enterprise architect takes on the role of a garden designer, envisioning and planning the layout, structure, and organisation of the components within the organisation. They analyse the business requirements, identify strategic goals, and design the blueprint that guides the development and growth of the organisation. Just as a garden designer carefully selects the appropriate plants for different areas of the garden, an enterprise architect selects the suitable technologies, systems, and processes that align with the organisation’s goals and objectives. They evaluate and choose the tools and platforms that will support efficient operations and enable the organisation to thrive.

The enterprise architect, like a garden designer managing its landscape, oversees the ongoing management and maintenance of the organisation’s landscape. They ensure that the organisation is well-integrated and process, people, and technology work together harmoniously. They monitor performance, identify areas for improvement, and suggest adjustments to optimise the organisation’s functioning. Like a garden designer is concerned with the long-term growth and evolution of a garden, an enterprise architect plans for the organisation’s scalability and adaptability. They anticipate future needs and trends, and design systems and structures that can accommodate growth, changes in the business environment, and emerging technologies.

How a garden designer balances aesthetics and functionality in the garden design, an enterprise architect wants to achieve a balance between the organisation’s strategic goals and operational efficiency. They ensure that the organisation’s structure and systems not only align with its objectives but also enable an effective balance of collaboration, communication, and innovation.

What do we grow?

Architects do not grow; we are not the plants. We select and prepare the right conditions, select which plants go where and what functions they have, and guide change and growth.

My own Dutch city garden with multiple capabilities and functional area’s.

Seeds and Plants: The employees and members of the organisation are represented by seeds and plants. Each individual brings unique skills, talents, and potential for growth, just like different plants contribute to the diversity and beauty of a garden.

Soil and Environment: The organisational culture, values, and work environment are symbolised by the soil and overall garden environment. Just as plants thrive in fertile soil, a supportive and positive organisational culture provides the nourishment and conditions for individuals to flourish.

Water and Sunlight: Communication, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing within the organisation can be compared to water and sunlight. Just as plants need water and sunlight to grow, effective communication and sharing of information foster innovation, cooperation, and overall organisational growth.

Pruning and Weeding: Continuous improvement, evaluation, and adaptation processes within the organisation can be likened to pruning and weeding in a garden. Regular assessment of processes, systems, and strategies allows for removing unnecessary elements and refining practices to optimise performance and eliminate inefficiencies.

Harvest and Fruits: The desired outcomes, achievements, and success of the organisation can be seen as the harvest and fruits of the garden. Like a well-tended garden that yields abundant and high-quality produce, an effective organisation reaps the rewards of its collective efforts, such as satisfied customers, financial stability, and positive impact on stakeholders.

With the garden metaphor, we can highlight the role of the enterprise architect in designing, planning, and managing the organisation’s structure and components to create a thriving and harmonious ecosystem. It underscores the need for careful consideration of selecting elements, the adaptability to changing conditions, and a holistic approach to achieving the organisation’s objectives.

An organisation as a garden

Mission (Purpose): The mission of the organisation, likened to the purpose behind creating the garden, represents its fundamental reason for existence. It reflects the organisation’s core values, principles, and the impact it seeks to make. Just as a garden’s mission may be to provide a serene and beautiful space, the organisation’s mission embodies its commitment to serving customers, making a positive societal impact, or solving specific challenges.

Identity (Garden’s Essence): The organisation’s identity can be compared to the garden’s essence, representing its unique character, values, and distinctiveness. Just as each garden has its own identity through the selection of plants, landscaping elements, and overall style, the organisation’s identity is shaped by its culture, brand, reputation, and the way it engages with stakeholders. The organisation’s identity reflects its personality, strengths, and the qualities that set it apart from others.

Goals (Blooms): The goals of the organisation, symbolising the blooms within the garden, represent specific objectives it aims to achieve. Each bloom corresponds to a strategic goal, such as increasing market share, expanding into new markets, or enhancing product innovation. These goals contribute to the organisation’s growth and success, much like blooms add beauty and diversity to the garden.

Vision (Garden Design): The vision of the organisation, similar to the garden design, embodies its desired future state. It paints a picture of what the organisation aspires to become or accomplish. The vision may include becoming a leader in the industry, fostering sustainability, or improving the lives of individuals. The garden design metaphor emphasises the importance of thoughtful planning, creativity, and envisioning the organisation’s future growth and impact.

By incorporating the concept of identity into the garden metaphor, we highlight the organisation’s unique character, values, and its role in cultivating a distinctive culture. The identity adds depth and authenticity to the organisation’s mission, goals, and vision, as it guides decision-making, stakeholder engagement, and overall organisational behaviour.

One of my other fields of interest is finding an abstract model that, at least to me, explains the relations between a mission, identity, goals and vision. More on that later.

What do you think, is this garden metaphor relevant? Should we nurture this and grow our understanding?

My previous blogs about using metaphors:

About the author

Enterprise Architect | Netherlands
Hans Nouwens is an experienced enterprise architect with 20+ years of practical experience in the field of ICT, infused with rigorous academic learning. He works as an architect and trusted advisor, mainly for Higher Education institutes.


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