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ILX’s The Apprentice Review: Episode 5

This week, The Apprentice brought us one of the most popular reoccurring tasks of the series: the “Buying Task”. Each team had to obtain nine obscure items, all at the lowest price possible, before returning to the House of Lords by 7pm. The teams incur fines for missing items or being late, but the exact penalties are not revealed until the task is over.

A key theme in last night’s episode was “risk”. PRINCE2’s Risk management Procedure breaks down into 5 recommended steps using the acronym: I Ate Peaches In China*.

  1. Identify: spot “threats” or “opportunities” that could affect Project objectives.
  2. Assess: consider the likelihood of the risk, and its subsequent impact on the Project.
  3. Plan: devise steps to either maximise the opportunity, or avoid the threat of the risks.
  4. Implement: carry out the steps planned in step three.
  5. Communicate to stakeholders - and your team - usually via reports created during a Project.

The threats with the biggest impact on the project end result were the potential fines. As the task drew to a close, both teams found themselves in a situation where they could either turn up late with all the items, or arrive on time without certain items. Team Graphene opted to secure all of the items but turned up nearly an hour late, whereas Team Vitality rushed to make it on time but missed three items. Graphene were fined £100 for being late, but Vitality unfortunately incurred a massive missing item fine of £347.53. Graphene won the task by £119.33.

Risk Management needs to be done in the initial planning stages of the Project. And, like many PRINCE2 processes, it also needs to be done continually throughout the Project’s duration to remain relevant and be effective. Both teams being pushed for time was a result of their initial failure to identify the following threats:

  1. London is big - driving to the outskirts and back to find items took a long time because of the distance involved.
  2. London is busy – driving to the outskirts and back to find items took a long time because they spent half that time stuck in traffic.

Both of these threats meant the teams had to quickly carry out steps 1-4 of the Risk Management Procedure to achieve their desired results. Vitality’s PM, Sajan, made the decision to cancel last minute on the supplier of an Amstrad computer (one of the nine items) in order to make it back on time. As a high-value item, we’re assuming that this would have incurred quite a hefty fine, contributing to the loss of the task.

If the candidates take anything away from the notorious buying task, we hope it’s the importance of Risk Management. A Project Manager needs to be able to not only be wary of threats, but also be conscious of opportunities. A lot of these could have been dealt with in the initial planning stage of the task, which would in turn make the continual Risk Management of the project far easier and more accurate. Good luck to them in the upcoming weeks!

*For the record, nothing about eating peaches in China implies risk. China is the world’s leading producer of peaches, and Chinese culture holds peach blossoms in very high regard. In fact, the ancient Chinese used to place peach wood branches over their doors to dispel evil. Now that’s what we call managing risk!