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Donna Dubinsky And Apple Computer, Inc.

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Donna Dubinsky and Apple Computer, Inc.

As companies today strive for success in the market place, it is the efficiency of the top management in the company, which usually determines whether or not they are able to achieve their goals. Many of these goals and values incorporate concepts surrounding quality products and services, innovation, team spirit, and efficient management, just to name a few. However, many times a disconnect in one or more of these areas can cause communication barriers, leading to various organizational conflicts and problems. In the case of Donna Dubinsky and Apple Computer, Inc. a sudden unexpected change has contributed to such organizational conflict and a break down in many of the necessary communication lines. In this analysis we will discuss the problem, the causes, and what steps could have led to avoidance of such a situation within the company.

Problem Analysis

The problem stems from a ÐŽoproposedÐŽ± change by the Chairman of Board of Directors, Steve Jobs. In order to analyze this case we will understand the impact of this change from an organizational perspective, as well as from an individual (Dubinsky) perspective.

Jobs proposed that the current distribution system of Apple be changed radically. He wanted to have a direct contact between the dealer and the manufacturing plants. This is totally different from the current distribution setup in the company where the dealersЎЇ requirements are fulfilled by the companyЎЇs distribution centers. Jobs proposal would have totally eliminated the distribution centers in favor of a more fancied ÐŽoJust in TimeÐŽ± (JIT) technique. This proposed change was not only radical, but also quite unexpected for the middle managers of the company. The fundamental areas and people that this change would impact, had many questions, concerns, and possible objections. This a problem because as an organization, Apple should operate with effective communication processes, effective team efforts, report through proper management channels, and be void of power struggles.

There are several areas and people being impacted by Jobs initiative to employ the ÐŽojust-in-timeÐŽ± process. The most obvious area to be directly impacted is the distribution department. Other areas, for example, the manufacturing and sales departments were also going to be affected.

As was to be expected, managers in the distribution department, namely Dubinsky and her boss Weaver were not at all in favor this change. Based on their perceptions, there was no need for the change in a process that was already efficient. From the facts given in the case, primarily successful product delivery, it seems that their opinions may not be wrong. Additionally, Weaver was not able to make the right decisions, as he was under a lot of pressure from the top to support this change. This demonstrated that there was a definite need for clarification about the new process, reasons for the change, and a justification for its implementation.

There were several issues that arouse, preventing a smooth implementation of this new process. We have identified five such problems. First, Steve Jobs had a dual role in the company, as the Chairman of the Board and as the General Manager of the Macintosh division. This caused confusion within the company. The employees seem to be demoralized, as they believed that his vision for the company was impaired by his responsibilities for his division. He himself seemed to run the entire company in the manner in which he ran the Macintosh division. It is also clear from the case that there was a conflict of ideas between him and CEO of the company, John Sculley. This situation hindered the company, as was evident from a severe pressure on the margins and a declining market share. It was also being felt within the company that Steve Jobs was focusing on the distribution area, merely to turn the heat away from a less than stellar performance by the Macintosh division.

The second issue arose when there was no justification given by him for scrapping the existing distribution process. There were no prior instances, which would have highlighted the problems with the current distribution method, involving either the efficiency or the costs. In DubinskyЎЇs own words ÐŽoDistributionЎЇs our Job. I couldnЎЇt get out of this mentality that what we had was working so well. The thing had never broken downÐŽ±. It is clear that the firmЎЇs distribution system was not showing any obvious problems and hence the managers were at a loss as to why was Jobs trying to change a system, which was working pretty well. Dubinsky and Weaver were proud that distribution had never caused a delay in product delivery, and they believed that the absence of complaints was probably their highest praise. Jobs argued that new system would help in reducing the costs and would directly affect the bottomline.

Thirdly, the top down management process caused a lack of understanding and motivation of employees to accept the new idea. The vice president for human resources, Jay Elliot, criticized the executive meeting process, pointing out that, counter to Apple values, it was an all-too-familiar instance of top management stepping around its own managers. It seems that Jobs was himself bypassing the hierarchy, which he was supposed to maintain. As the Chairman of the company, he thought that he could simply impose his own ideas on the other managers of the company. This of course caused some resentment, as there seemed to be a lack of clear logic as to why a new system was required. It seemed that he simply liked the idea of JIT, without thinking its effectiveness in the companyЎЇs context.

Fourth, it is quite clear that Apple-II and Macintosh Divisions were having a power struggle over importance within the company. There was obvious tension between the Apple II Division, which felt its contributions to the firm was undervalued, and the Macintosh Division, whose general manager, Jobs, saw it as the technological vanguard within Apple. We see this conflict between the divisions as detrimental to the growth of the company.

Lastly, it seems that Dubinsky was unable to handle the problem in the correct manner. She had numerous reasons to believe that her current approach for distribution was working fine and Jobs lacked a strong reason to completely change the



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