Hearts: Architecture  

The Hearts suit focusses on the organisation’s core elements. The businesses ability to react to a changing environment. Its leadership, culture and attitude. Business Architecture establishes a foundation to the business. 

The Business Architecture Working Group of the Object Management Group (OMG) (2010) describes it as “a blueprint of the enterprise that provides a common understanding of the organisation and is used to align strategic objectives and tactical demands.  According to the OMG describes “the structure of the enterprise in terms of its governance structure, business processes, and business information.” As such, the profession of business architecture primarily focuses on the motivational, operational, and analysis frameworks that link these aspects of the enterprise together.


This is often the first suit used, by establishing the overall strategy of the organisation. (Corporate Strategy)

Note: All suits can be used to consider all strategy levels but Architecture is often about the corporate level strategy
The other suits are all appropriate for understanding and eliciting the overall strategy and context or the organisation.

The Castle: Represents Organisational Health an organisation’s ability to function effectively, to cope adequately, to change appropriately, and to grow from within. Without a focus on the well-being of the organisation the foundations crumble. Healthy companies compete effectively against their competition.

They are represented by companies that:

  • Have a shared vision
  • Operate with transparency
  • are consultative
  • Supportive
  • Have professional standards
  • Develop talent
  • Customer focussed

The King: Essence

Represents the Organisations Core Values. I call this the “Organisation Essence”. The essence is what the business believes in , why it exists and it’s beliefs. Every business has a central attitude and outlook or persona.  Although much of this comes from the vision of the owner or leaders of the business it is important that the essence is found at all levels of the organisation. Everyone within the business should be able to communicate the organisations essence.  People with similar values like to work with or work within an organisation that is like themselves. The essence is what makes the business what it is.

The Queen: Leadership

Leadership is often seen as the figurehead of an organisation. In this instance the card is not it is about the figurehead it is about ownership of a problem, it is about inner leadership of an individual, it is about  creating an environment where other leaders can flourish. I met Deanna Oppenheimer a few times and I have continued to quote her she said ” When you walk away from a great manager you think WoW they are great,  but when you walk away from a great leader you think WoW I’m Great !”

The Joker: Culture and Attitude

The joker is intentionally used even though people think that this character is comic. This is not the case the joker in the kings court was used to represent the voice of the people – the joker could say things in jest to the king that others would be unable to say. The joker  represents the “true word spoken”. Culture and attitude of the organisation is difficult to measure but should be one of the focus points for the business. Rene Carayol once said that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” if you get the culture right the strategy will follow, no amount of strategy will change culture.

The Knight: Vision

Knowing where you are going or at least the dream that you have as a business is what this card represents.

Martin Luther King – Never said I have a Plan !

An organisation that sets goals and has a vision will naturally collect like minded people. By setting  your DREAM and communicating that dream, people will understand why they are doing what you ask of them.  Like martin Luther King  using the phrase  “I believe” helps to reinforce that dream. A company that has a clear vision that is communicated throughout the business will thrive. Dreams don’t have to be across an entire organisation departments and individuals can have their own  vision and dreams.

The Sage: Context

The sage represents the overall business context that encompasses an understanding of the factors impacting the business from various perspectives of stakeholders.  (Including how decisions are made and what the business is ultimately trying to achieve.) The card represents the requirement of  everyone within the business to have a common understanding of the environment that the organisation is operating within, a consensus on what it is trying to achieve and an environment of cooperation both internally and externally.


On the reverse:

Of the Hearts cards are Isaksen & Treffinger’s 1985 key stages.

Mess Finding

Data Finding

Problem Finding

Idea Finding

Solution Finding

Acceptance Finding

I find this useful to lay out in interviews and workshops to consider the stages that we find ourselves in and pointing out that the team should not dive into solution finding in the first instance but consider the situation and identify the underlying problems before diving into finding of solutions.

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