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Applying Management Theory to Get Along Better With Your Network

By David Strom (Send Email)
Posted Mar 22, 2000


Many of you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality tests. The tests grew out of personality theories first formulated by psychoanalyst Carl Jung and are now used by human resources personnel to predict group behavior and team composition.

Does your network seem to flow in a style similar to your own, or do its patterns constantly balk against your decision-making techniques? It may not be a case of a right or wrong methodology, but rather a personality conflict. Learn how to apply the Myers-Briggs personality test to your network to determine if such interaction has the makings of synergy or separatism.

But what if similar tests could be given networks, to figure out ahead of time how to match up the personality of the network with its network administrator? The more you think about this idea, the less far-out it seems.

The actual Myers-Briggs test consists of a series of questions. There are various versions, ranging from the traditional one offered at http://www.keirsey.com to a shorter four-question test available at http://www.haleonline.com/psych/. Go to one of these sites now and take the test to determine your own personality type, if you haven't already done so sometime in your employment past.

Now let's look at the network side of the equation. Answer the following about your network, keeping track of the initial letter that best describes your situation:

  1. What influences your network operations: Internal users' actions (I) or external events and upper management (E)?
  2. How do you manage problems when they occur on your network: With tools and carefully scripted techniques (S) or with seat-of-the-pants reactions (N)?
  3. How do you purchase networking products: Thinking through the implications and a rigid set of standards (T), or laissez-faire attitude and by letting users buy pretty much what they want (F)?
  4. How is your network wiring installed: With a structured plan and architecture (J) or with more flexibility, making it up as you go along (P)?

All right, now you can assemble your network "personality type" into one of the 16 different combinations of the four letters. Ideally, your personality and that of your network will match on all four metrics. If not, you might want to consider finding another company or another job within the company that will more closely match your personality. Alternatively, you might consider ways to alter your network's personality so that it is more closely in line your own.

Let's consider two possibilities:

INFP networks pretty much are organic, reactive kinds of things. Your network never seems to be in a finished state, and crises happen pretty much on a daily basis. Since users rule, and thus buy pretty much anything they want, you cannot predict what each day will bring — ever. You never really get out of fire-fighting mode to be able to do some planning, but that is okay if you are the similar personality type and enjoy this more intuitive approach to your job. INFP networks are usually found in high-growth companies, such as dot-coms, where every day is a chaotic blend of new hires, departmental moves and staff changes, and new requirements.

ESTJ networks are the exact opposite: Users here have little say in things, and if a piece of gear is not on your approved list, it does not get purchased, plain and simple. Every day is structured and pretty much predictable, and your network runs on schedule and according to plan. ESTJ networks are usually found in more traditional centralized IT businesses, such as financial services and government, with long-range budget cycles and careful attention paid to staffing and growth.

I am sure you can come up with characteristics for the other network personalities as well. Given that I am an ISTJ, I am out of the time I planned for writing this article. Good luck typing your network, unless you are a ESFP and don't enjoy doing these sorts of things.

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