Intracellular signaling networks receive and process information to control cellular machines. The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) 1,2/protein kinase C (PKC) system is one such network that regulates many cellular machines, including the cell cycle machinery and autocrine/paracrine factor synthesizing machinery. We used a combination of computational analysis and experiments in mouse NIH-3T3 fibroblasts to understand the design principles of this controller network. We find that the growth factor-stimulated signaling network containing MAPK 1, 2/PKC can operate with one (monostable) or two (bistable) stable states. At low concentrations of MAPK phosphatase, the system exhibits bistable behavior, such that brief stimulus results in sustained MAPK activation. The MAPK-induced increase in the amounts of MAPK phosphatase eliminates the prolonged response capability and moves the network to a monostable state, in which it behaves as a proportional response system responding acutely to stimulus. Thus, the MAPK 1, 2/PKC controller network is flexibly designed, and MAPK phosphatase may be critical for this flexible response.