AT#39: EAM – Be a Gardener not an Architect!

AT#39: EAM – Be a Gardener not an Architect!

AT#39: EAM – Be a Gardener not an Architect!

“I think there are two types, the architects, and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.”

Novelist R.R. Martin


Over the course of my twelve years of experience as an Enterprise Architect, I have seen EA initiatives in more than twenty large companies; only two or three of which were successful, i.e., they had a significant or even noticeable impact on the real world’s software-projects. A pattern I saw, again and again, is that the ‘planning-oriented’ top-down, engineering approaches typically employed by EAs do not work when faced with the unknowability and unpredictability of real-world bottom-up software development projects. This observation made me think that enterprises aren’t architected at all. Defining a target state for five years later? There are too many unknown influencing factors.

Enterprises must not be architected, they must be grown. Establish a framework for growth. Plant the seeds. Do some weeding and fertilizing now and then. With a bit of luck, you will have a nice, healthy, growing enterprise on your hand a few years down the road. EA succeeds when enterprises are treated as complex systems that are constantly changing and adapting [Jason Bloomberg].

I like to use the term ‘Vanguard EA’ (coined by Gartner in 2017) for this gardener like kind of EA. Vanguard  EAs are curious people. Like a gardener passionate about his garden, they must be passionate for the business of their companies. They need the ability to look beyond traditional business concepts and drill to the core of a given concept. Vanguard EAs use their strong interpersonal skills to consult their business stakeholders innovatively. They must be able to work with a wide variety of stakeholders that range from business executives to business analysts and IT architects. They must be great communicators to mediate between different viewpoints and stakeholders.

What you should do:

  • To be successful in navigating through the digital transformation, reshape your EAM from an engineering ‘Architecture’ discipline to a business-driven, social ‘Landscape Gardener’ discipline
  • Make your EAM a business discipline
  • Staff your EA team with people highly acknowledged by the business and excellent communication skills
  • Develop your EA team into a ‘Vanguard EA’ team that brings innovation to the business people early in the ideation process


Previous Posts:

AT#31: Soft Factors of Architecture – Part 3: Communication

AT#1: Regain Control – make Business People accountable for Architecture

Launch of the Architectural Thinking Framework®

Please spread the Ideas of Architectural Thinking!


Adolfo Escudero Posted on 5:33 pm - Jun 18, 2019

thank you for so creative perspective, i feel like a gardener, i just didn’t realize

Michael Poulin Posted on 8:40 pm - Jun 19, 2019

This is a re-post from LinkedIn placed here on proposal from Wolfganag:

Everyone should mind personal professional business – Architect have to architect, Developers have to develop what architected and Gardeners have to garden. Architects has a huge power of abstraction: the capabilities they define for different contexts and market changes; they define the shape, material and size of the roof and rooms, but do not care how the wiring is done – this is for technology leads… Actual implementation of architectural solutions is the task of Delivery Managers while Architects are responsible for identifying risks if Managers deliver or do not deliver what was architected. The planning is the Delivery Management prerogative. Software development project runs out of already identified solutions and risks. Business is not a living organism and its nerve and blood lines are provided by Architects directly adopting market changes in the solutions to be developed or leased from outside.

Michael Poulin Posted on 8:46 pm - Jun 19, 2019

I think that the choice of images for the bridge in a wood (garden?) and over the maze at is well indicative.

Peter Murchland Posted on 12:41 am - Jul 21, 2019

This article seems to make some (what I would regard as inappropriate) assumptions about what architects do and then argues why they can’t do that. This suggests to me that there is some deeper discussion required, both about “what architecture is” and about “what architects do”. It also prompts some discussion about the nature of architecture and architecting of animate systems versus inanimate systems. What seems to have been inferred here are characteristics of architecting inanimate systems (where the “future” can be predicted, so to speak) which are not appropriate or effective for architecting animate systems (social systems and socio-technical systems).

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