>Myers-Briggs and Enterprise Architecture

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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality questionnaire designed to identify certain psychological differences according to the typological theories of Carl Gustav Jung as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types (English edition, 1923).The original developers of the indicator were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. (Wikipedia)

The MBTI indicates 16 personality types among people. MBTI helps explain why different types of people are interested in different things, are good at different things, excel in cetain types of jobs, and find it difficult to understand and get along with others.

In MBTI, there are 4 performances or pairs of opposing tendencies that people are ranked on:

  1. Introversion or Extroversion—whether the person directs and receives energy from inside themselves or from the outside world.
  2. Sensing or iNtuition—whether the person performs information gathering through their 5 senses or through their 6th sense, intuition.
  3. Thinking or Feeling—whether the person conducts decision-making through logical analysis or through a value-oriened, subjective basis.
  4. Judging or Perceiving—whether the person lifestyle is driven to come to closure and act on decisions or remain open and adapt to new information.

In the book, The Character of Organizations by William Bridges, the author extends the use of MBTI from individuals to organizations.

“Everyone knows that organizations differ in their size, structure, and purpose, but they also differ in character…the personality of the individual organization.” Knowing an organization’s character “enables us to understand why organizations act as they do and why they are so very hard to change in any fundamental way.”

Applying the Myers-Briggs 4 pairs of preferences to organizations looks like this:

  1. Introversion or Extroversion—“Is the organization primarily outwardly oriented toward markets, competition, and regulations or is it inwardly oriented toward its own technology, its leaders’ dreams, or its own culture.”
  2. Sensing or iNtuition—“Is the organization primarily focused on the present, the details, and the actuality of situations or on the future, the big picture, and the possibilities inherent.”
  3. Thinking or Feeling—“Decision making happens on the basis of principles like consistency, competence, and efficiency or through a personal process that depends on values like individuality, the common good, or creativity.”
  4. Judging or Perceiving—“Prefer to reach firm decision, define things clearly, and get closure on issues or always seeking more input, preferring to leave things loose, or opting to keep their choices open.”

Where does an organization’s character come from?

  1. Its founder
  2. Influence of business (especially a particular industry)
  3. Employee groups
  4. Subsequent leaders (especially it’s current leader)
  5. Its history and traditions

“An organization’s character is certainly going to change over the years. And with all the variables at work, you can see that the changes are going to be somewhat unpredictable…the important point is that at any given time, an organization will have a particular character, which will to a large extent shape its destiny.”

From a User-centric EA perspective, the character of the organization can have a citical impact on the work of its EA practioners. Here are some examples:

  • The target architecture—the EA practioner needs to tailor the target architecture to the character of the organization. For example, an introverted organization may be more intent on developing proprietary technology solutions or customizing software to its own ends than an extroverted organization which may be more inclined to out of the box, commercial-off-the-shelf software solutions.
  • IT governance—the EA practioner may need to handle IT governance differently if the organization is a judging or perceiving one. For example, if the organization is more judging, the IT Investment Review Board and EA Review Board may be able to come to decisions on new IT investments and their alignment with the organization’s EA more quickly than a perceiving organization, which may be reluctant to make firm decisions on new IT investments or may require additional information and details or require exhaustive analysis of alternatives.
  • Change management—the EA practioner may need to handle various levels of resistance to change and manage it accordingly based on whether an organization is more sensing or intuitive. For example, if the organization is more sensing, focused on the present and the details of it, then the enterprise may not be as receptive to change as an organization that is more perceiving, big picture, strategic, and future-oriented.

Just as an understanding of your own and others personality helps guide self-development, life decisions, and social interactions, so too knowing an organization’s character can provide the EA practioner critical information to help develop a realistic architecture for the enterprise, provide useful IT governance for investment management decisions, and influence interactions for effectively managing organizational change.

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