Mary Smith is the bookkeeper for Dave’s Distributing Company, a distributor of soft drinks and juices. Because the company is rather small, Mary performs all daily accounting tasks herself. Dave, the owner of the company, supervises the warehouse/delivery and front office staff, but he also spends much of his time jogging and skiing.
For several years, profits were good, and sales grew faster than industry averages. Although the accounting system was working well, bottlers were pressuring Dave to computerize. With a little guidance from a CPA friend and with no mention to Mary, Dave bought a new computer system and some accounting software. Only one day was required to set up the hardware, install the software, and convert the files. The morning the vendor installed the computer system, Mary’s job performance changed dramatically. Although the software company provided two full days of training, Mary resisted learning the new system. As a result, Dave decided she should run both the manual and computer systems for a month to verify the new system’s accuracy.
Mary continually complained that she lacked the time and expertise to update both systems by herself. She also complained that she did not understand how to use the new computer system. To keep accounts up to date, Dave spent two to three hours a day running the new system himself. Dave found that much of the time spent running the system was devoted to identifying discrepancies between the computer and manual results. When the error was located, it was usually in the manual system. This significantly increased Dave’s confidence in the new system.
At the end of the month, Dave was ready to scrap the manual system, but Mary said she was not ready. Dave went back to skiing and jogging, and Mary went on with the manual system. When the computer system fell behind, Dave again spent time catching it up. He also worked with Mary to try to help her understand how to operate the computer system.
Months later, Dave was very frustrated because he was still keeping the computer system up to date and training Mary. He commented, “I’m sure Mary knows how to use the system, but she doesn’t seem to want to. I can do all the accounting work on the computer in two or three hours a day, but she can’t even do it in her normal eight-hour workday. What should I do?”
a. What do you believe is the real cause of Mary’s resistance to computers?
b. What events may have contributed to the new system’s failure?
c. In retrospect, how should Dave have handled the accounting system computerization?
d. At what point in the decision-making process should Mary have been informed? Should she have had some say in whether the computer was purchased? If so, what should have been the nature of her input? If Mary had not agreed with Dave’s decision to acquire the computer, what should Dave have done?
e. A hard decision must be made regarding Mary. Significant efforts have been made to train her, but they have been unsuccessful. What would you recommend at this point? Should she be fired? Threatened with the loss of her job? Moved somewhere else in the business? Given additional training?