Labour (Leadership) Pains

Labour (Leadership) Pains

This lack of cohesion and alignment in philosophy and values is not that far from the mix that seems to have led to the aborted coup in Turkey last week

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

So, today the battle for the soul of the Labour party really begins. We now know that there will be only one challenger to the current leader Jeremy Corbyn, and that is Owen Smith.

Corbyn has been leader for less than a year, and his ascendancy to the role signalled a clear shift to the left for the Labour Party. Despite gaining more than 60% of the votes in last year’s leadership contest, Corbyn has failed to establish his credentials with the Parliamentary Labour Party (or MPs to you and I). Over 80% of MPs recently expressed no confidence in their leader, resulting in the upcoming leadership contest. Why is this? The key to the answer is in that “clear shift to the left”.  For many Labour MPs elected in or inspired by “New Labour” and the Blair Labour Government, this shift challenges their beliefs and, even the identity of the Labour Party. For all sitting Labour MPs the contest is not just for leader of the Labour Party. but for the very soul of the party.

For all sitting Labour MPs the contest is not just for leader of the Labour Party. but for the very soul of the party

It is worth remembering that the Labour party tried to go down this route once before. At the height of the Thatcher government in the early 1980s, the Labour leader was Michael Foot. His political beliefs were not that different to those of Jeremy Corbyn, and once again the Labour Party was solidly left wing. This resulted in a group of more centralist Labour MPs breaking away and forming the Social Democratic Party (SDP). After failing to gain any real traction on their own, the SDP amalgamated with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats. It is not difficult to imagine history repeating itself, if the “centralist” coup should fail.

By the 1990s, after a sustained period of being unelectable, the extreme left wing of the party (Militant) was banished and the party moved back to the centre-left under Blair. Their new identity built around social mobility and aspiration won over traditional Tory voters (as it was not that different from centre-right or liberal-conservatism). Labour won 3 elections with the Blairite approach.

But what of the left wing? Well, like Sauron in “Lord of The Rings”, they never really went away, just bided their time and re-built. And as we know, they resumed control of the party last year.

If the recent EU referendum has taught us anything, it has taught us not to be too certain in predicting anything where voting is concerned

Owen Smith

Owen Smith

This has resulted in a minority of left wing Labour MPs with hard core socialist views leading a group of MPs who are predominantly centre-left (Blairite) in beliefs. This lack of cohesion and alignment in philosophy and values is not that far from the mix that seems to have led to the aborted coup in Turkey last week. A different arena, and different political issues and, thankfully, a different approach to the solution, but be in no doubt, the result of this leadership challenge will have repercussions for the Labour Party and its aspirations to be in government. If a left wing, socialist Labour Party couldn’t get elected at the height of Thatcherism, is it more electable now? If the recent EU referendum has taught us anything, it has taught us not to be too certain in predicting anything where voting is concerned

What May the future hold?

What May the future hold?

Theresa MayToday (July 13th 2017) The UK has a new Prime Minister. Theresa May has emerged as PM after the recent bloodletting in the Conservative party following the EU referendum.

It’s worth reflecting on the last few weeks in British politics. Now I know this has been done by many people in many ways, but I’m interested in looking at these events from a leadership perspective.

In this blog post, I will focus on the events in the Conservative party. Who is our new PM and what are her values? I will look at the Labour party in a separate post.

By definition, leadership is about persuading people to follow you. There is a debate about how our next PM was decided upon. In the end, May was the last woman standing, as previous candidates to lead the Conservative party fell by the wayside, either through their own choice or that of their party. So, actually, nobody has directly chosen May to be PM. That said, it is within the constitution and May feels she has sufficient mandate that she has stated she does not feel the need to call a general election to get one. Although May made a speech on Monday outlining her philosophy, nobody actually voted for it! All of this presents May with her first challenge; how to inspire people to follow her.

UK politics has undergone a seismic shift over the last few years

A profile in The Guardian describes May as “unpredictable and moralistic”. She  is also seen as a detail person and someone who struggles to delegate. Think micromanagement. This attention to detail is going to be important going forward, especially in leading the negotiations for “Brexit”. Don’t be surprised if May takes her time in appointing the cabinet; in common with many politicians, she displays the cautious low emoting analytical style. Relatively risk-averse, it is more important to get it right than it is to get it done quickly. In social types terms, May is definitely more task focused than people focused. She is described as hard to get to know, sharing little personal information. She is not interested in gossip. This could be either the driving style or analytical style. It is the measured delivery and softer tones that suggest the latter for me.

May has also given us some insights into her values.  One  analysis  reviewed her only campaign speech, last Monday, just before here last rival, Andrea Leadsom, dropped out of the contest. Three themes emerged;

  1. to govern for “everyone, not just the privileged few”
  2. to unite the party and the country
  3. to negotiate EU withdrawal successfully

All 3 points highlight May’s priorities, but it is point 1 that gives the most insight into her values. May is a believer in “One-Nation Conservatism”and point one is an effective definition of what that is. It will be interesting to see how this belief is translated into action, and this is vital if she is to meet the aspirations of points 2 and 3.

UK politics has undergone a seismic shift over the last few years. The surprise with which the Brexit win was received confirmed that large parts of the population have become disillusioned with the norm or the “establishment”. It started with the rise of UKIP and the coincidental fall of the labour party since 2010. This led to the first peace time coalition government in generations. Labour responded by moving more to the left. The two leading political parties are further apart in their philosophies than they have been for 40 years. In the 1990s they competed for the centre ground. Now, they fight from the flanks.

UKIP was mistakenly believed to appeal only to the right, but their rise in the last election and the success of Brexit (their only policy) has shown that actually they really appeal to frustrated blue collar workers in rural and northern areas, as well as the more hardline right.

If Theresa May is to unite the country, the government she leads will have to negotiate these shark infested waters. She appears to want to step into the void that was vacated by labour (the centre ground) but this will put her at odds with her own party.

Here is her first speech as PM

In the next part of this discussion, I will look at what is happening on the left, and how the civil war currently being fought in the Labour party will almost certainly see the party split in 2.

The Apprentice 2015 Week 2 – Versatile Boys Are Head & Shoulders AboveThe Girls

The Apprentice 2015 Week 2 – Versatile Boys Are Head & Shoulders AboveThe Girls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Week 2 of this year’s competition started with Lord Sugar introducing gender-based teams. This resulted in builder Brett Butler-Smythe leaving the girls with the awful name he introduced – Connexus. The irony  of this name was plain to see, as the girls were anything but united. The boys became Versatile.

In recent years we have seen that the early gender-based teams can throw up interesting contrasts in approach. It is no different this year, with bitchiness and high emotion seeming to define the girls. The boys have at least worked out that they need each other and to work together. It’s not that they always agree and that there aren’t egos on show, but the approach is more passive-aggressive than the outright aggressive of Connexus.

The task this week was a traditional branding exercise, with both teams trying to market the same cactus-based shampoo. Unfortunately the girls got in a lather and PM Aisha Kasim was fired. This was hardly a surprise, as she was one of the most extreme examples of the Autocratic leadership style that can be seen in a one hour television programme!

For the boys, Marketing agency director, Richard Woods gave an impeccable demonstration of leading from the back with a style apparently so Democratic that Karen Brady questioned whether he had recently read a management text book. This was a bit harsh, but Richard expertly demonstrated the art of leadership; involving others, encouraging discussion, but gently nudging the team to his vision. Given that marketing is his area of expertise, it was no surprise that Lord Sugar described their product “Western” as one of the best examples of doing this exercise in the whole history of the series. A simple idea, well executed and produced in a classy bottle.

This is not to say that Versatile were not without their faults. The pitch led by Account Manager Scott Saunders was awful. His decision to wing-it backfired badly. Unfortunately, this is no surprise to anyone teaching Presentation Excellence; the old adage of “Preparation, Preparation, Preparation” still holds. That said, the stodgy pitch from Account Manager Natalie Dean (is there a pattern here?) was so boring it was unbelievable. Natalie admitted later that she did not believe in her product, and she gave a master class in how our body language conveys our internal thoughts much more than the words we use (see the work of Albert Mehrabian).

In the end, the boys won by a country mile. They were better at every step of the branding process, and Richard did a fine job as PM (although fellow Marketer David Stevenson resented not getting more credit for the TV advert he directed. In fact, he executed the PM’s vision in the most obvious example of Richard nudging the team’s direction).

p033wp1rIn the boardroom, Natalie was lucky to survive for owning up to not believing in the product (the crime of Corporate Disloyalty), but Lord Sugar questioned why social media entrepreneur Vana Koutsomitis was brought back. This sealed the fate of PM Aisha and she was fired. It is hard to disagree with this decision.

Going forward, the girls need to sort out their differences, or they are unlikely to win any tasks.

 

Alex Ferguson – Thoughts on Management & Leadership

Alex Ferguson’s – Thoughts on Management and Leadership

Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in English league football, and one of the most successful in world football. Ferguson recently published the latest volume of his memoirs “My Autobiography”, principally covering the period from 1999 to his retirement this year.

In the book, Ferguson also shares some of his insights into being a (football) manager. Several of them can be applied to any form of management, whereas others are possibly specific to football. What can we take from these quotes and what insights do they give us into Ferguson’s values and beliefs?

Here are some of Ferguson’s quotes (italics) on Leadership & Management followed by my thoughts on what he may mean, or what we can take from them.

Sometimes defeats are the best outcomes. To react to adversity is a quality. Even in your lowest periods you are showing strength.”

It is easy to be a manager when things are going well, but every manager will have occasions when things do not go according to plan. This is when those around you will look to you to fix things. This is when your reputation will start to be written. Make sure that you stay true to your values, but be flexible in your beliefs as they may be holding you back.

 “With young people you have to impart a sense of responsibility. If they can add greater awareness to their energy and their talents they can be rewarded with careers.”

Most manager will be leading teams and within these teams will be individuals of varying experience and confidence. One of the biggest challenges with younger team members (and our children) is to get them to accept responsibility for their actions, not look to blame others or the environment.

 “But to be called a genius you also need to accept that you are probably also going to be called a fool.”

It is great to receive praise, but the best feedback is given at the behavioural level (what you did that worked and what didn’t work) rather than at the identity level (“you are a genius” feels great, but what about “you are a fool”?) Stick to feeding back behaviours.

  “People try to apply to football the usual principles of business. But it’s not a lathe, it’s not a milling machine, it’s a collection of human beings. That’s the difference.”

Actually, the art of management is the art of managing and leading people, even if they operate machines!

 “The moment the manager loses his authority, you don’t have a club. The players will be running it, and then you’re in big trouble.”

Managers have to be respected. It is a bonus if you are liked! you need to be consistent, fair and level headed to be a good manager. Remember this, and you will earn respect and maintain your authority.

 “I always felt that my best moments as a manager were when I made quick decisions based on irrefutable fact, on conviction”.

Again, stay true to your values, but make sure that the evidence supports your convictions. Is there “irrefutable” evidence that what you are doing is working or correct?

 “I would never let it out of the dressing room. I would have felt that I had betrayed the one constant principle of my time as a manager: to defend. No, not to defend, but to protect them from outside judgments.”

Or, praise in public and criticise in private.

 “The big decisions you make in those jobs are usually seen by outsiders as exercises in power, when control is really what it’s about.”

This nuggets probably says the most about Ferguson’s beliefs than any of the others. It’s important to feel like you are in control, but don’t forget the power of delegation. This is especially useful with high will / high skill individuals who are ready for more responsibility. Your ability to delegate effectively is probably the most important

I could identify with one of (Vince) Lombardi’s greatest sayings “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time” [Lombardi was a very successful coach of NFL’s Green bay Packers in the 1960s]

 A great example of a winning mentality and a never say die attitude. This probably accounts for why Man. United won so many matches with late goals.

These are just a few of Ferguson’s quotes on Leadership & Management. They give us some insight into his values and beliefs, and explain some of the behaviours we associate with him as a football manager.

Comments welcomed.

 

 

 

 

The Apprentice 2013 – The Result

The Apprentice 2013 – The Result

Apprentice winner, Leah Totton. Courtesy of BBC

Apprentice winner, Leah Totton. Courtesy of BBC

In the end, Lord Sugar surprised us with the brave choice of Leah Totton as his business partner. Brave, not because of Leah herself, but because her idea of aesthetic clinics takes Lord Sugar into unknown territory. The safer option would have been Luisa’s baking wholesale brand. This decision will be seen as just  reward for Luisa who was, frankly, awful for long stretches of this season. Yes, she did improve as the series went on, but when she was bad she was rotten. This possibly accounted for why Luisa only got Neil as her first choice team member ,where as Leah got all of her first choices. I for one am pleased that she lost.

Having said that, we saw a different side to Leah, who so determined and set on getting her way, that she almost ignored good advice from her team around her brand name.

Leah was very clear in her business proposal, and had researched the market thoroughly. She may be new to business, but she has the clinical credibility to see it through. Don’t be surprised to see Lord Sugar get his wish and Leah become not only the face, but the name of her business. “NIKS” could easily become “Dr Leah”. Not only does she have professional credibility, but she is photogenic.

It is probably Leah’s passion and conviction, backed up with solid numbers (something that Luisa was a little vague on) that helped to convince Sugar to go with the aesthetics business. One other factor was Luisa’s vagueness about what would happen to her 3 other businesses. Sugar may be recruiting a business partner, rather than a member of staff, but he expects 100% of their attention in return for his £250K.

It will be interesting to see how this business idea progresses, but don’t be surprised to see The Baker’s Toolkit also become successful, with alternative investors.

The Call Centre Week 2 – SWSWSWN

MP910216392The Call Centre – SWSWSWN

This week at the “Save Britain Money” Call Centre in Swansea the focus is even more on personality.

Last week we got an insight into Nev Wishire’s style of leadership. Nev is an extrovert, and the programme suggests he likes to surround himself with similar outgoing personalities.  Of course, expressive personalities make for better television than the more reflective, introverted style, so it is hard to know how much of what we see is down to editing and how much is real? This week we see examples of how this preference can create issues and burn out. But do you agree with Nev’s approach? Well, as the man himself likes to say “Some Will, Some Won’t, So what? Next (SWSWSWN).

We see Nev’s Paternalistic Leadership Style  in action once again this week but with mixed results. First, he tries to rescue high maintenance, poor attendee, but occasional top sales performer Ania, who has anxiety issues. We saw a similar approach  last week with Hayley, who was promoted (?)  to tea lady after her sales started to slip. Hayley seems to thrive in this less demanding role, so Nev tries to repeat his success with Ania, by making her a tea lady, doing a 2 week holiday cover. This time it doesn’t work out and she ends up leaving.

Nev’s efforts to help Ania are contrasted with his attempts to get George a date. The programme makers would have us believe that George is atypical in Nev’s Call Centre. Nev himself describes George as a hard worker, a slogger and dependable. So, he’s a bit more steady in his sales, but with fewer peaks and troughs than the more excitable Ania. Unfortunately for George, who didn’t ask for Nev’s help, the scheme backfires, with even desperate-for-a-husband Alex turning him down. It is interesting to see how Nev equates George’s lack of success in getting a date (6 years and counting) to his lack of confidence. It is more likely that working in an environment with so many extroverts he is not going to find someone to like him for who he is.

Can we conclude anything from these vignettes? Nev is passionate about creating a “unique atmosphere” in his call centre. This is characterised by energy and enthusiasm, something that extroverts can deliver in abundance. The difficulty is maintaining that energy, and the programme concentrates on the lengths that the management team, led with gusto by Nev, go to keep the energy up; from speed dating, to a rock band, to a Voice of Wales Call Centres competition. It is probably necessary to have a mixture of extroverts (Anias) and introverts (Georges); the former give the centre energy and drive activity, the latter give a solid performance foundation that is more predictable in terms of results.

The third theme of this week is in relation to The voice of Wales Call Centres, and there is success for Save Britain Money, as former actress Heledd is successful, firstly in the centre and then in the whole competition. Heledd is actually somewhere between the extremes of personality seen in Ania and George. She has the confidence of the extroverts and the measured approach of the introverts and is successful with it. The 300 word poem she composes to win the competition is superb and she also demonstrates a knowledge of the fundamental premise of selling; focus on the benefits to the customer, not the features.

Extroverts, like Ania and Hayley bring energy to organisations, but their performance is often characterised by peaks and troughs. Introverts like George provide a steady, but unspectacular performance. But it is those who sit somewhere in the middle, like Heledd, who posibly represent the best bet in sales. Heledd is the current face and voice of Call Centres in Wales and is the perfect choice.

The Call Centre – Smiley, Happy People (Sell)

The Call Centre – Smiley Happy People (Sell)

negotiationWelcome to a new fly-on-the-wall documentary series which follows the staff of a Call Centre in Swansea. This programme is going to split opinion, as 10 years on from The Office, we see that David Brent is alive and kicking in the form of Nev Wilshire, CEO.

Although he claims never to seen The Office, Nev appears to have the same leadership philosophy; “Happy People Sell”. Its hard to know what impact the cameras have, but the staff working for Nev appear to love him. I’m sure his approach is marmite, and those who stay thrive in it. Those who don’t leave. We did see Nev’s “gut feel” approach to recruitment in action, where he is apparently more interested in character and personality than ability. This approach is consistent with Nev’s yellow/Expressive Social Style. That the business is thriving suggests he’s on to something.

What Nev does have is a clear vision of the type of organisation he wants (“Happy People Sell”) and the values that spring from this vision; energy, fun, and loyalty. Each of these values is illustrated in the programme;

  • energy with Nev getting the new recruits to start their training with a compulsory karaoke  of The Killer’s “Mr Bright Side”
  • fun with the speed dating set up to get Kayleigh in admin happy again
  • and loyalty to Hayley, who cannot cut it as a telesales agent, but finds her niche as the tea lady

On the evidence of the programme, it is shown to have some success, but encouraging laddish behaviour is also shown to have its downsides. Witness a prank taken too far with Hayley’s teabags, sugar and spoons being hidden from her. The joke is carried on too long and she ends up going to her line manager in tears. Neve states that HR “totally despair of me” and exist to keep him (and everyone else) on the straight and narrow.

This was a good first episode which soon progressed from The Office to a more meditative essay on management and leadership and the cost of running your own business. Nev has had his up and downs (millionaire at 28, business failure at 38, successful but divorced at 53) . It becomes obvious that his work is his life, and he acts like a benevolent parent to his children/staff. I can’t wait to see how this series develops over its 5 week run.

The Apprentice Week 5 – Dubai These Goods

The Apprentice Week 5 – Dubai These Goods

Zee courtesy of BBC

Zee
Courtesy of BBC

Its retail therapy this week in The Apprentice, with the teams dispatched to Dubai to source  and sell items. Zee, who has lived there claims to have a lot of local knowledge. Specifically the teams have to find 8 items for a new hotel.

Leah joins Endeavour to balance the teams, and the pattern for the task is set as she and Zee compete for PM. Zee’s local knowledge gets the nod.

Miles leads the opposition Evolve team, and wants to focus on luxury items, as this is his area of expertise.

Contrasting strategies are adopted by the 2 teams. Zee uses his local knowledge to source items and will not countenance either the need for research or buying items from Malls. For him, the Sukhs are where the bargains will be found. If he has the knowledge, this is a sound strategy. However, over the programme, both the viewer, and his team come to doubt how extensive his local knowledge is. In addition, Zee’s relationship with women, and especially Leah seems strained.

Miles, without the benefit of local knowledge and working against the clock, adopts exactly the opposite strategy, and heads for the Mall. Both teams face time pressures, but where as Zee focuses on negotiation, whilst Miles is focused more on getting all of the items, with negotiation as a secondary concern. Teams will be punished for any items not sourced. Surely, Zee’s local knowledge will come out on top?

Zee and his sub team make a mess of the measurements for a flag and need to re-order, when the item they have ordered proves to be too small. Leah’s team are struggling to get any items, but Neil eventually pushes through a Khandoura at half the price paid by the other team. It proves to be the wrong type of Khandoura

In the boardroom, Zee gets poor feedback from his sub team, especially Leah. His local knowledge is challenged by Sugar, as he made mistakes with the oud and the flag. The wrong sizing of the flag is attributed to Kurt, who accepts the blame. The team’s negotiations are applauded.

Miles is accused of wasting time on research at the Mall, and waiting for the flag to be produced. Their negotiation skills are ridiculed by both Sugar and Karen Brady.

In the end Evolve beat Endeavour, mostly down to the debacle with the flag. Miles more measured approach paid dividends in comparison to Zee’s bravado. Zee looks vulnerable as the team unites against him.

Zee brings back Leah and Natalie. Surprisingly, Kurt is let off despite his mistake with the flag, as is Neil over the Khandoura. Zee justifies his decision based on lack of contribution from Natalie and lack of support from Leah. The girls unite against Zee and accuse him of being sexist. Leah is described as indecisive by Sugar, who also calls Zee arrogant. Eventually, Sugar comments on  Natalie’s lack of contribution. However, he decided to give her one last chance, and it is Zee who is fired, for basically being incompetent. It is the right decision.

Zee proved to be a very ineffective leader. It is crucial for a leader to build up a team, but Zee only succeeded in uniting the team against him. His bravado and the decision to bring Natalie, rather than Kurt or Neil back was the final nail in the coffin of his objectivity. The strong suspicion that he has a problem working with women is also hard to refute, based on the evidence of this programme.

The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

courtesy of BBC

courtesy of BBC

The teams assemble at Surrey Docks Farm in East London, with the girls desperately in need a win having lost 3 on the bounce. However, the teams are mixed with Uzma and Natalie going one way and 3 of the lads going the other way. At least some of the girls will win.

The task is to open a Farm Shop, source stock and sell it. Biggest profit wins. Both teams seem to miss the point of a Farm Shop and instead go for the more profitable “takeaway” market.

Luisa gets the nod as PM for Evolve, and they go for meat (buffalo burgers), jackets and soup. Neil leads Endeavour, as he’s “a born leader”. As he’s been leading from the back (according to himself) this should be a breeze. Kurt has some experience of dairy and Neil goes for his idea of milkshakes. No discussion allowed.

Each task is always about leadership, and we saw an excellent example of this last week from Jordan. This week we have the autocratic style of Neil versus the democratic / laissez-faire approach of Luisa.

Research and stock purchase follow. Buffalo is different, expensive and high margin at £159. At the dairy, Alex rushes the numbers and everyone is confused. They get it for £40 for 100l of Jersey milk, if they bottle it themselves.

The Evolve sub team is given £40 to buy veg for “window dressing”. They end up spending £146! Miles railroads Luisa, who caves in. Then they go for Apple Juice, and despite Miles wanting to spend more money, Luisa finally says no. There is no clear strategy or communication between the sub teams in Evolve, and Luisa comes across as indecisive.

The Endeavour sub team buys fruit, with a budget of £100. Kurt disagrees but Neil isn’t listening. Kurt is reluctant to spend and only buys a small amount of stock, using only £33! He is banking on the shake being profitable and promises to sell 200 units.

There is no clear strategy or communication in Endeavour, either.

Next day it is all about the selling. The shops are located at Broadway Market. Luisa gives a pep talk at Buffalocal, but Neil is frustrated that the sub team bought so little fruit and veg. The shop (Fruity Cow) is still not ready 45 minutes after opening time. Neil’s leadership style has shifted from dictator to more dictated to.

Early feedback on the Buffalo is that it is expensive and there are no early takers for lunch of soup and jacket potatoes. They have nearly 350 servings to move, in addition to the buffalo, which eventually starts to shift. Miles (of course) suggests the soup etc. is put on display outside of the shop. Eventually they start to move, but Miles is unhappy with the aesthetic of the jacket spuds, and blames Jason. Increasingly, it is Miles, not Luisa who is seen to be leading the team. Luisa recedes further into the background

The milkshakes start to come in thick and fast.  As stock moves, Kurt suggests buying cheap apple juice as a new line. By mid afternoon, Neil is looking to get rid of stock, but is unhappy with Uzma’s contribution (what contribution? I hear you ask). Both teams are left with unsold stock, but Neil is (of course) confident.

In the Boardroom, strategies and tactics are scrutinized, especially the takeaway angle from both teams. Miles sticks the knife into Luisa, and the support from the rest of the team is muted to say the least. Neil’s leadership style is also examined and Kurt is especially lukewarm about it.

The numbers for both teams come in and Endeavour have a profit of £539 to Evolve’s  £630. Neil loses by £91. They didn’t sell enough milkshakes (113 v a target of 200). For Evolve, Luisa was a poor, indecisive PM, and Miles is happy to take the credit for rescuing the team. From the edit, he may be right.

In the autopsy that follows, Sugar questions Neil’s inability to change direction when things started to unravel, but Kurt is given credit for the fruit juice initiative. Eventually Uzma comes under the spotlight as well, and her contribution is deemed to be lacking. Neil principally blames Kurt, but brings Uzma as well as she was the weakest person in the team.

Uzma puts up a spirited defence to Neil, who is accused of being “cocky” by Sugar. Kurt is criticized for offering to sell 200 milkshakes, but he did contribute a lot of the profit. Uzma says Neil should go, and Neil says it should be Kurt. Sugar inevitably fires Uzma, but not before scaring both Neil and Kurt. It is the right decision based on the first 4 tasks, but Neil could have gone for his poor leadership.

This week both PMs were poor leaders, but for different reasons. Luisa listened too much and eventually, Miles took over, possibly rescuing the team. Neil was autocratic, especially over the strategy, but then was weak and indecisive when things started going astray. It was Kurt who adapted the strategy, but he was over confident to get stuck with a large sales target.

Good leadership requires clarity over the task (better in Evolve) with the team pulling in the same direction to deliver the task (both teams failed here) and with every individual contributing. Uzma failed in this respect, but Jason is another yet to show any real talent. Jordan remains the most impressive of the boys, with Leah (quieter this week) the best of the girls. Miles may be annoying and vain, but he did make a solid contribution this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apprentice Week 3 – Design Flaws

Courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

The Apprentice Week 3 – Design flaws

This week the teams are tasked with designing a new flat-packed piece of furniture. It’s a research, design and pitch task.

The teams assemble along gender lines once again, at the home of the Design Council. Sugar warns the girls as to their behaviour, but for the first time allows both teams to choose their own PM. Business Analyst Jordan leads the boys, whilst Natalie heads up the girls.

The girls go for a multi-functional cube shaped table. Everyone is on broadcast and no one is on receive. The boys go for a folding chair, championed by Alex.

The next day, Rebecca reveals on that she is not in favour of the cube, but finds herself as part of the Market Research (MR) team, along with Sophie who claims to have expertise in this area. Not surprisingly, they hear mixed feedback, but is this due to a poor product, or poorly conducted feedback? The first rule of MR is to be open minded and neutral, which is why we generally use external agencies. Rebecca seems quick to jump on any opportunity to re-design the cube, but Sophie is just too unassertive. Similarly, the boys MR includes doubters, so conflict results in both teams (so we are back to Storming behaviour again (see last week). Divisions become apparent within the sub teams of both the girls and the boys. It is how the 2 PMs handle this situation that proves telling. There is broad consensus in the boys’ team, led by Jordan, and argument amongst the girls’. Natalie ignores the feedback and pushes on with the product.

In terms of design, the girls look for ease of assembly, but struggle to identify an inspirational design they can agree on. Alex pushes the boys with an easy to assemble folding chair, but as time is running out, mistakes are made in both teams.  Nick reminds us that it a camel “a horse designed by committee”, something that could apply to both products.

Once again, there is no agreed process on how the item will be designed and produced. This is the key to success here; role clarity and trust. If you set up a MR team, you need to listen to them. In the end there is a lack of buy in, especially within the girl’s team, because their input has been ignored.

Prototypes are produced overnight. The girls’ “Tidy-Sidy”, but the cushion is the wrong size.  The boys are happy with their product.

At the pitches there is mixed feedback to both products, but the girls get more consistent negative feedback. For the boys, it is the length of the legs that splits opinions, depending on who they are pitching to. Zee in particular fares badly in the pitches for the boys and is removed from further pitches by PM Jordan, but the girls get slicker as the pitches progress, despite having a poor product design (a box on wheels).

Next day, it’s into the boardroom and both PMs are given support from their teams. The orders are counted and it the boys run away with it, thanks to an order of 2,500 units ordered from the catalogue company. The girls lose again.

Sugar tells the boys that Alex’ product is the best he has seen in the boardroom.

Interrogation in the boardroom allows Sugar to be wise after the fact and rubbish the product. The girls look to see who is to blame and the bitchiness returns. Rebecca is quizzed about her dislike of the product. Observer Karen blames the team for trying to incorporate everyone’s ideas. This has to be the responsibility of PM Natalie. The MR is also challenged and rubbished by Sugar.

Natalie brings back Uzma and Sophie. Natalie blames both for hiding. Uzma is blamed for the design and Sophie for the MR. Shouting ensues. Sophie says it’s all unfair, but eventually Sugar makes his decision and it is the PM Natalie who must take the overall blame, but thanks to “gut feel” it is Sophie who is fired, for hiding. Sophie keeps her dignity, but not her job.

In the end, Sophie was fired for “hiding” something that Sugar hates. Her real crime was to be too quiet in a loud team. She had some good contribution, but she was just too nice and too quiet. Natalie probably should have been fired, but she put up a robust defense and survived.  In contrast, Jordan was an effective PM , and led the team well. He looks like one to watch. Zee, on the other hand seems to have lost the fait of the rest of the boys, and is unlikely to last long on this performance.