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ILX's The Apprentice Review: Episode 3

This week, the teams were tasked to program a robot to sell to larger retailers, then select a toy to sell to smaller retailers. Despite Team Vitality out-selling Team Graphene in smaller toy sales by a massive £4,308.05, they received no larger orders. Graphene’s impressive total order value of £57,827.55 won them the day.

However, what was particularly interesting about this episode for us wasn’t the figures or the robotics. The candidates seem to be showing more personality, and their behaviour told us a lot about how character can shape a project manager’s performance.

The APM Body of Knowledge (APM BOK) refers to 8 “readily identified behavioural characteristics important for project management.” In this post, we’re going to take a look at 4 of these characteristics that we saw in action last night, and take a look at the effect of these on the teams’ projects.

  1. Attitude

If the result of the task had been decided by attitude, it wouldn’t be surprising if Team Vitality won. As Karren pointed out, Graphene’s bickering and disjointed approach to pitches seemed like a waste of time. The blame for this appeared to be directed at Siobhan, who was accused of being negative and abrasive. She said this was because she is a “realist”. We agree it’s important to be logical, but both clients and team members respond well to positive, can-do attitudes – particularly in difficult situations.

  1. Common Sense

By having common sense, the APM BOK means being capable of spotting simpler, more efficient ways of doing things. PM Michaela and her team changed their robot’s name without telling their sub-team, who programmed it with a different name. There was then a later issue where, rather than acknowledging this in the pitch as a technical issue, the team feigned that one of the names was the robot’s surname, which didn’t seem too convincing. According to the BOK: “Common sense seeks to simplify rather than overcomplicate”. We couldn’t agree more.

  1. Open Mindedness

Open-mindedness in project management isn’t so much about your worldview. It is about being ready and willing to adapt to new tactics and environments while considering a wide range of views. It was decided for Michaela that she switched into the boys’ team, Vitality, but she did so happily, really seeming to listen to and respect her new team and their opinions. It seems quite telling that, when she wasn’t fired, her team cheered, lifting her in the air like a baseball team in an 80’s movie. Being open-minded with your team helps earn their respect.

  1. Prudent Risk Taking

According to the APM BOK, this means being capable of spotting opportunities and risks, and determining how to achieve or avoid them. Both teams chose a particular toy they wanted to sell to the smaller retailers. Vitality agreed it was imperative they show the designers how much they love their product. Graphene however, opted to ask about whether the designer planned to upgrade it. Later, the designer confirmed she would be going with Vitality because their enthusiasm had won her over. Asking questions can be an excellent strategy for showing interest while learning more about an opportunity, but here it was the wrong risk to take. Vitality may have known less, but they gained more.

Demonstrating the 8 behavioural characteristics recommended by the APM BOK can have a massive impact on how your team and clients see you. It can earn respect, unity, revenue and more – plus lose these if not adopted properly. Curious about whether you demonstrate the other 4? You can purchase the APM Body of Knowledge in the Best Practice Bookstore.