The Mary Chowning case examines several managerial challenges that Mary Chowning encountered during her first year as chief financial officer (CFO) of the fictitious company Lucky & Baker. Through Chowning’s tribulations, the case provides an opportunity for students to plan and practice difficult conversations in a variety of professional contexts. Each of the four vignettes highlighted in the case can be solved through a variety of approaches and decisions, with no clear “right” decision.
The first two vignettes explore a complex relationship between Lucky & Baker and its South African subsidiary, Jubari. Having been treated with blatant disregard by Jubari’s management team, Chowning wonders how she should approach the situation. The third vignette examines an extremely challenging employee termination within Chowning’s department. The termination is not straightforward, and the vignette is written in a way that there is a case to be made for keeping the employee in his current role. Regardless of the ultimate decision, Chowning knows there will be a number of difficult conversations with her staff. The final vignette reveals a board meeting Chowning chaired, in which one of Lucky & Baker’s board members explodes in a bout of rage. Chowning is left wondering how to deal with a board member who has acted in a completely unacceptable fashion.