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ILX’s The Apprentice Review: Episode 4

It’s week 4. Once again the candidates were tasked to produce a luxury experience from a not-so luxury budget. The teams needed to deliver a VIP hospitality box experience at Wembley Stadium for the women’s FA Cup final, and run a food stall outside during the game. Although the clients could demand refunds, neither group suffered a loss. Team Vitality won with £1215.70 profit to Team Graphene’s £984.36, due to some savvy cost-cutting.

The Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) details the importance of Project Human Resource Management. This means knowing who’s doing what, and making what they’re doing better in order to enhance the project’s performance. The “organisational planning” stage requires clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of each team member as early as possible. These can (and should) adapt to suit the project. In this review, we’re going to take a look at where the teams’ HR Management went right, and where they could have improved.

In larger scale projects, you can teach the relevant knowledge and skills that will benefit the project. In the mini-projects we see on The Apprentice, there isn’t time to train everyone involved. This “constraint” as it is referred to in the PMBOK® Guide, would make it a wise move to assign roles based on the existing knowledge of each team member. E.g. it may not have been sensible to put Bushra, who doesn’t drink alcohol, in charge of ordering wine. Graphene ended up ordering far too much, which likely contributed to their loss. That being said, their VIP box looked a lot livelier than the one serving cheese puffs.

In the initial organisational planning stage, Jade was assigned to help deliver the VIP experience. However, in advance of the event, her sales abilities were acknowledged. Siobhan agreed to transfer her to the sub-team working the food stall. The PMBOK® Guide recommends regularly reviewing the results of organisational planning to ensure that the initial plan is still effective. Jade’s change of role into the sales team was an excellent one, and she was dubbed a “sales machine” by Lord Sugar’s aide, Claude Littner. Graphene out-sold Vitality on their food stall by £130.30.

According to Lord Sugar, Siobhan was fired for this task because she owns a wedding company, and therefore should have won an event planning task with ease. Siobhan stood by her loss, claiming that profit isn’t everything and “client satisfaction is key”. The PMBOK® Guide recommends “stakeholder analysis”. This means identifying the stakeholders and their needs, and focusing on these to deliver effective results. “This is about making me happy”, Lord Sugar told the losing team. Siobhan’s dedication to client satisfaction unfortunately distracted her from pleasing her main stakeholder, which likely led to her dismissal.

Competing on The Apprentice should be considered a project in itself. Lord Sugar is the stakeholder: the candidates need to meet his needs and expectations during each mini-project in order to succeed. As roles and responsibilities evolve, we (and Lord Sugar) should become better able to see which sort of positions the candidates are suited to. We believe they should focus on their goal of winning the series by delivering the best results to the key stakeholder, Lord Sugar. They could do this by, as recommended in the PMBOK® Guide, continually reviewing their performance to identify which tactics are proving effective. Hopefully the candidates will continue to acquire the experience and skills needed, to adapt themselves to the role of Lord Sugar’s business partner.