Donna Dubinsky, a yale graduate and MBA graduate from the Harvard Business School. In July 1981, Dubinsky began as a customer support liaison reporting to Roy Weaver, the new head of distribution, service and support group. In 1985, Dubinsky became the director of distribution and sales administration. Dubinsky is described as being confident and very direct as well as having a willingness to fight for the issues she believes in without being intimidated by upper management. She is willing to take risks and to hold a hardline when necessary.
Apple, founded in 1976 received abundant amount of press coverage and was a well known company by the time it climbed it’s way into the Fortune 500. The Apple II home and educational computer was the main selling product behind the success of the company. In 1983, Apple Cofounder Steve Jobs had hired John Sculley as president. The following year the Macintosh computer was first introduced. By 1985 Apple II sales had begun to decline and were failing to reach projected planning and profitability predictions. Tensions began rising between the Apple II division and the rest of the company.
Conflict began in September of 1984 when Dubinsky and Weaver, presented the distribution, services and support group’s 1985 business plan to Apple executives. Jobs challenged the plan and complained that he had not received a good explanation to support the cost levels and structures. Jobs and Manufacturing Director Debi Coleman were investigating the Just-In-Time distribution method, a drastic change to the current procedures. Dubinsky strongly achieved that it would be a mistake to implement at Apple. Sculley and VP of Sales Bill Campbell called for a strategy review and for recommended improvements from the Distribution group by Mid-December.
Donna Dubinsky believes that switching to the JIT method would be a catastrophe for her job and for Apple. The problem began forming with the Apple II’s failure to meet projected profitability margins and when stakeholders outside of the distribution umbrella began to propose alternative methodology for manufacturing and distribution. Top management also went against Apple’s core values by engaging in top-down management to discuss the two rival proposals for distribution.
Top level management managed to pit two divisions against each other and effectively created a dysfunctional conflict. Steve Jobs, in order to defend his low sales of the Macintosh Division went on the attack by criticizing the current distribution process. Jobs used positional power to overstep the responsibilities and experience of Dubinsky in an effort to change the procedures.
Dubinsky and Weaver were put into a position where any objection they made was seen as defensiveness. This lead to the confusion of Dubinsky’s boss Weaver effectively paralyzing his decision making leaving him a useless resource in Dubinsky’s efforts to defend her group. The Mid-December deadline also made it difficult for Dubinsky to allocate the proper resources to research in defense of the existing system. By not perceiving the initial threat as real, Dubinsky had missed her first chance at defending her department. Not only did Jobs have positional power over Dubinsky and Weaver, he was perceived by the other stakeholders as having expertise power in this situation.
Dubinsky was given a second chance at a solution when the task force was created, yet she focused her time on an adversarial style of negotiating as seen with her criticism. This prevented the group from finding a collaborative solution to the conflict. The lack of cooperative communication with the task force diminished her position within the company and lessened the chance of finding a middle ground for the group to find solutions or alternatives. She further exacerbated her hard lined stance by confronting the President Scully in public, questioning his leadership.
Throughout the entire distribution conflict Dubinsky seemed to have lost her rationalizations and her ability to self-monitor, leading to her contentious and adversarial behaviour.
The Just in Time method was seen as a superior manufacturing and distribution method. It involved high risk to implement and Dubinsky did not see it as the right fit for Apple.