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.

The Apprentice 2013 Week 1 – Self-Contained Mess

The Apprentice 2013 Week 1 – Self-Contained Mess

Your firedThe first task facing our new candidates (you can read my pre-series review here) is to remember who is who as they meet each other for the first time. Same for us really. And what a bunch they are. A mixture of the vain, the lame and downright hopeless. Who is which remains to be seen.

Once again, the aim is to find a business partner, rather than an Apprentice. The first task sees the teams in the traditional Boys v Girls. Midnight. The Boardroom. A brief introduction to the candidates and then we’re off. The first task involves a container of imported products for each team. Aim – to sell from dawn throughout the day. The team that sells the most wins. Jaz volunteers to be the PM for the girls, with real conviction (“I’m only bossy if I’m right, which is most of the time”). Jason also volunteers, but seems to immediately regret it. He gets the job.

Potential Team names are bounced around, and the girls take Evolve and the boys go for Endeavour. Jaz reveals her teaching background and treats the team like kids. Jason struggles to control the egos on display as he is low assertive.

Locations are investigated and pitches are done, giving us a chance to see the typical team in Forming / Storming phase, which all teams go through when they first come together. As there is no formal leader, just a self appointed volunteer, this model (originated by Bruce Tuckman) suggests we can expect the team to hit “Storming” phase quite quickly. So it proves to be. Throughout the programme this is evidenced by ego clashes and arguments (think of your typical teenager and their parents). This is added to by the fact that he teams are not really teams, but individuals who are competing with each other. To support the team through this phase, the leader needs to adopt a strong guiding style. Neither Jaz or Jason, seem to have this in them. There is some politeness in front of the PM, but also occasional bursts of emotion as frustration sets in and deadlines approach. In the boys team, Neil in particular can’t resist taking over.

In the boardroom, the performances of the teams are scrutinised by Sugar, with both PMs getting criticism from their teams, as well as some praise. The winning team is revealed to be…Endeavour. By £58.

Sugar challenges Jaz on her strategy and location choices and her leadership.  After deliberation, PM Jaz decides to bring back Sophie and Uzma, neither of whom sold anything. Uzma protests that she had a “logistics” role. Jaz says she made a big mistake in not finding a buyer for the cat litter. Jaz describes Sophie as a “passenger”.

In the end Sugar decides that Uzma shouldn’t have been brought back. He turns on Sophie and Jaz, and ultimately, due to bad organisation, Jaz should be fired. This is probably the right decision as Jaz showed no commercial acumen and limited applied leadership ability. To me it is risky to take the first PM role when you don’t know the individuals. The first task is always going to be stormy.

Margaret Thatcher; Saviour or Style Victim?

margaret_thatcherMargaret Thatcher; Saviour or Style Victim?

The death of Margaret Thatcher has brought a deluge of comment and opinion (just try googling her name). But what type of leader was Margaret Thatcher? Was she a Saviour, as some people have suggested, or the Devil made flesh? To me, Thatcher was a victim of Style. Communication or Social Style that is.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece on the Driving Social Style, as typified by Lords Alan Sugar. You read about this style here . In that article, I mentioned that Margaret Thatcher is the other (stereo)typical example of the Driving Style; needing to be in control, hiding their emotions, apparently cold and, even, uncaring, with a strong preference to get the job done, even at the expense of relationships. With an expression like “the Lady’s not for turning” you almost get the mission statement for the Driving Style.

Several of the comments from people who actually knew her, rather than just being exposed to her public persona, have said that  although she could appear hard in public, in private she had a caring side. This was evidenced by her apparently personally writing to the families of every serviceman who died in the Falkland’s crisis. Maybe what we saw is not exactly who she was, but it is natural that we judge a person by what they do. This is where the Saviour or Demon labels come in; it depends where you are looking at that behaviour from, and how it relates to your personal values.

Margaret Thatcher may have been disliked by many people (possibly even hated) but the majority of commentators have indicated that, even amongst her enemies, she was respected. Interestingly, she is possibly more revered outside of the UK than in it, and she certainly defined a certain British image associated with her time as Prime Minister.

But what of her legacy? What impact did her style have on those who followed? John Major is the archetypal Analytical Style; Blair is harder to pin down, being either versatile or inconsistent, depending on how you look at it, but probably responds more to “people” than either of his predecessors. As such, Blair is possibly an Amiable, with a strong need for acceptance and wanting to achieve consensus. His body language, is however, ambiguous and hard to read.

Gordon Brown is another Analytical in the mold of Major, and this style is the really cool and aloof one, though attention to detail is a strength, which is why history may say both Brown and Major were better Chancellors than PMs. Neither were blessed with great charisma. Blair had Charisma, but more style than substance? Perhaps.

David Cameron is interesting, as he is somewhere between Blair and Major. Amiable-Analytical perhaps? Like Thatcher, he is leading the country at a difficult time, but seems to want to project an image of someone who makes tough decisions, but with compassion. Time will tell if this genuine, or  not, as the majority of public opinion on Blair seems to believe.

For me, Margaret Thatcher defined my youth and early career. I learned a lot form observing her leadership style. What works and what doesn’t. Thatcher possibly lacked versatility and was a victim of her style, but this undoubtedly helped her to achieve what successes she had. It also probably hindered her from taking more people with her on the journey.


Why Di Canio may be just what SAFC needs…for now

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courtesy of

Why Di Canio may be just what SAFC needs…for now

Many a football fan will be waking up today to the news that Paulo Di Canio is the new manager of Sunderland Football Club. Di Canio is a character who splits opinion. A genius on the pitch as a player, capable of amazing skill; but a self-confessed fascist off the pitch who was once banned for giving a Nazi-style salute (he described it as a Roman salute). But what do we know about his leadership style and will it help Sunderland to avoid relegation with 7 games left?

Read a full review of Di Canio at his previous, and first, managerial appointment here . He was renowned for demanding very high standards of discipline, which could be broadly summarised in a tee shirt logo as “My ay or the Highway”. Di Canio’s time at Swindon was characterised by frequent outbursts, dysfunctional relationships…and success in the form of promotion in his first season. The approach used is typical of the Autocratic style of leadership, as described by Kurt Lewin back in 1939. And the Autocratic Style is just what Di Canio seems to exemplify.

The Autocratic style of Leadership is perfectly suited to situations where there is great urgency, and time is short. This perfectly describes Sunderland’s situation in the English Premier League today. So, he may be just the right man to help Sunderland avoid the drop. However, as he found at Swindon, he does not have absolute authority, so he is going to have to develop other leadership styles, maybe more collaborative. The smartest Generals, who are rarely on the field of war but observe from the sidelines, know that you need trusted Lieutenants to carry out your orders on the field. Di Canio will need to identify, or bring in, people he can trust.

Similarly, he needs to foster relationship with the Chairman and Board if he is to get the autonomy and funds he needs to succeed.

I won’t be surprised if he succeeds this year (though as a Newcastle fan, I hope it starts after the Tyne-Wear derby). After all, when there is a fire, you need a fireman to take control and douse the flames. But what about when the fire is out  and you need to win hearts and minds  and inspire people? Perhaps Di Canio could do worse that read a bit of more recent Leadership theory. I would suggest a bit of Kouzes and Posner  .

What the “Vettel Incident” teaches us about Leadership

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courtesy of

What the “Vettel Incident” teaches us about Leadership

The hot topic in leadership this week (or at least one of them) concerns Sebastien Vettel in the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix. If you are not familiar with the story, you can read about it here.

The simple fact is that Vettel ignored team orders and put himself ahead of the team in a desire to finish first. This is a laudable characteristic in a winner – you want them to be competitive. But not at the expense of the team. What Vettel did reminds me of when I was recruiting as a sales manager. To get an insight into the character of the person I was interviewing, I used to present them with an apparently impossible choice;

“Would you rather be the top sales person, or a member of the top sales team?”

To answer “top sales person” may suggest you would put your own interests above the team, but you are probably a self starter. To answer “tops sales team” may suggest you lack drive and could hide behind the success of others. Neither answer is particularly desirable, as both may say negative things about you. There was an answer I was looking for, but I’ll share that with you at the end of the article.

The psychology behind a winning mentality and why we hate being told what to do is explored really well in today’s Metro online . What interests me, though, is the leadership challenge now facing Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner.

I go back to my favourite leadership model- the Action Centred Leadership Model of John Adair.

Adair breaks Leadership down to getting the balance right between Task, Team and Individual.

TASK – there may be a conflict in the mind of Vettel, as his task is to be world champion, but the team task is to win the constructor’s title. What Vettel may have been demonstrating is a lack of alignment between his personal ambition (and value) of being champion and the team task of winning the constructor’s title. Vettels’ behaviour gives a hint as to his priority.

TEAM – For Horner, he has the task of creating a united team, all pulling in the same direction. This is called Inter-Dependence. But of course, although everyone in Red Bull is united in wanting to win the constructor’s challenge, there are 2 sub teams in the pit lane, each supporting either Vettel or Mark Webber. It is hard to see how Sunday’s incident will help unite the team.

INDIVIDUAL – The third circle involves getting to know and work with the individuals. Horner has a real challenge here, because if he is not seen to deal with what happened in a fair way, he stands to lose one or both drivers. The challenge around Webber is particularly tough, as his contract is up this year, and Horner has to decide how much he wants to placate Webber. Vettel is, after all, three time world champion.

Of course, Vettel is going to need Webber (and vice versa) if he is to be champion again this year. Clearly, trust between the two has been damaged. Can it be repaired?

What price Webber taking Vettel out  at a crucial point towards the end of the season and costing his 25 points? Better keep checking those mirrors, Seb.

And the answer to my “impossible choice”? Not so impossible really, the ideal answer for me is; “I want to be in the top team, but within that team I want to be the top sales person”. I wonder what Christian Horner wants?

What do you think?

Young Apprentice 2012 – Final Thoughts… or why its time that Young Apprentice should be fired

business planYoung Apprentice 2012 – Final Thoughts… or why its time that Young Apprentice should be fired

And the winner is…unexpected. Young Apprentice limped across the finish line as the third series came to a conclusion last night. I have commented several times that this bunch of would-be entrepreneurs has been disappointing and nothing that I saw last night changed my mind. In the end the result was academic (literally) with neither member of the winning team, Lucy or Ashleigh, having a clear idea of how they would invest Lord Sugar’s £25K. In their ongoing education…probably. That Sugar chose Ashleigh over Lucy, therefore, doesn’t really matter. In the end he went for Ashleigh, but I’m really not sure why.

The final task was to design a range of clothing for a defined market along with a marketing campaign incorporating a viral video and then pitch it to industry experts. Sugar wisely split up the two loudmouths (Ashleigh and Maria) and paired each with one of the timid toads (Lucy and Patrick respectively).

The majority of the programme followed how the more refelctive toads gradually got heard and the loudmouths were gagged! Although Patrick did assert himself, he did it behind Maria’s back, rather than confront her. This resulted in an ill-chosen idea of using a mixed age choir for their young urban cyclist themed brand, Cyc. This, added to Maria’s poor choice of colours (too close to the Wimbledon brand), cost their team the task. Of course, this perfectly reflects the modus operandi for these 2 candidates; Patrick apparently creative, but often with poor ideas; Maria opinionated and not listening, with a strong inner belief. Her idea of market research was to ask one middle aged cycle shop owner what he thought!

Lucy allowed Ashleigh full control in the early part of the task, then used her creativity to design a decent logo (Release) and ensure consistency in the brand. Her pitch was also excellent, and having on the team task, I expected Lucy, rather than Ashleigh to go on and win. In truth, of the final 4, only Patrick had a clear vision of how he would use the prize money (Clothes Design). But Lucy was the more rounded candidate and should have won.

I’m still not sure what criteria Sugar used to decide on Ashleigh. In truth neither Lucy or Ashleigh made a good clear case for how they would invest Sugar’s money, so perhaps Sugar sees Ashleigh’s drive  as more likely to produce a return. Who knows?

So, a generally poor series ends in a consistent but disappointing manner. If the BBC are going to commission a new series I think they need to recruit real entrepreneurs rather than “aspiring lawyers” or “future accountants”. A far more interesting series, given the BBC’s recent troubles would be a competition to see which BBC Executives should get to keep their jobs as they overcome a different corporate disaster each week.

Bye Bye, Young Apprentice – You’re Fired!

Young Apprentice Week 7 – Double Jeopardy

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of

Young Apprentice week 7 – Double Jeopardy

It’s the semi final of this year’s Young Apprentice, and in a twist the task started almost immediately after last week’s boardroom. Both teams are informed that in the losing team this week, 2 candidates will be fired.

Six candidates remain; in Odyssey there are Steven, Andrew and Lucy and in Platinum Patrick, Ashleigh, and Maria. After a bit of wrangling, Lucy and Patrick assume the roles of PM. The task; each team has £1500 to spend on  2 items from a list and sell them at the WOMAD (World Music) Festival. The team with the largest sales (plus remaining assets) wins.

The trick here is to choose the best items (i.e. those likely to sell), get them at the best discount to maximise profit and then sell them. In terms of choosing the best items, the fact that only Steven appeared to have any experience of festivals was always going to make it difficult to choose the best items. So both teams dispatched members to do some market research; Andrew for Odyssey went to a shopping mall, where the shoppers didn’t seem to match the likely profile of WOMAD revellers ( older, more affluent, eco-conscious, possibly with young children). He found out nothing. Ashleigh went to Camden Town, a more likely location and found out some useful information. Unfortunately, what she did find out was ignored by her pm, Patrick, who had already decided on the items he wanted!

Lesson: If you don’t know your market, do some focused research and pay attention to what you learn.

Both teams decided they liked the portable disposable loos. Patrick wanted the umbrella that can also be used as a seat (or bum rest at least). Both good choices you would think, given English summer weather. Odyssey were interested in the portable washing machine (really? at a festival??) and the Onesies – one piece animal costumes. Platinum got the nod for the portable loo despite having offered a lower price. This was due to heavy handed negotiation and a lack of enthusiasm for the product from Odyssey’s Steven.

Lesson: When you are competing to get rights to a product, negotiating the price needs to be coupled with clearly demonstrated enthusiasm for the product. Steven got this wrong.

The last part of the strategy is to sell the product. The portable loos eventually became a seller for Platinum, but only once they had reduced the asking price (even at this reduced price the profit was a handy 50%). The umbrella seats proved more difficult to move due to the sunny weather on the day.

For Odyssey, the washing machine was a non-starter. As Andrew himself realised, this would be perfect for the “Glamping” (glamorous camping) market. Festival goers usually bring enough clothes to see them through  and don’t want to spend time washing! The Onsies did sell, and became the focus of Odyssey’s campaign.

In the boardroom it was revealed that Platinum had won, but only by about £30. They had the better products, especially the loo versus the washing machine, and product selection proved to be important. However, Odyssey did well with the Onesies. A better second product (such as the face paints which everyone, especially the children, were wearing, as was pointed out by Sugar) would have won the task for Odyssey.

Of the 3 candidates in losing team Odyssey it was no surprise that Lucy survived, though Sugar dragged it out. She had not previously been in the bottom 3. Andrew was a perpetual loser (6/7) and only just survived last week and Steven’s aggressive approach to negotiation cost the team the portable loos, and probably the task, so both had to go too.

So 4 remain; The Fish Wife (as we say in the North East) Maria; The Ghost (Patrick), The One-Trick Pony (Patrick) and the All-Rounder, and my favourite to win, Lucy.

Next week’s it’s the final, but who will be sainted and who will be scrooged?

Young Apprentice Week 6 – Team fails to gel in hair product disaster

Alan SugarYoung Apprentice Week 6 – Team fails to gel in hair product disaster.

Lord Sugar yet again mixed up the teams in the week’s Young Apprentice. Like a DJ trying to find that elusive blend, or maybe it’s just a reflection of the lack of obvious talent in this year’s bunch, Maria ended up with Ashleigh and Patrick in Platinum (I think, it’s so confusing). Odyssey now had a team of 4; Andrew, Steven, Lucy and Navdeep. With only 7 candidates and 3 weeks left personality was always going to play a big part this week.

The task was to design a concept for a new hair product. Note: not the actual product. No chemicals were involved, just design and a pitch. In Odyssey, Andrew was pm and the team settled on the idea of a brand that would help men to stand out from the crowd. Their first, and critical error, was falling in love with the name Chameleon, and not realising that this means to blend in, not stand out. This was later compounded when the focus group loved the name.

Over in Platinum, the team targeted girls with the somewhat bizarrely named  “Strexy” (it’s strong and sexy see?). Their approach was to be as tacky as possible, and in this they succeeded. But whereas Odyssey had an unclear brand strategy (brand concept, name and target audience didn’t fit), Platinum had focus and direction, albeit with a pretty crap product.

The rest of the programme showed just how dysfunctional both teams were as individuals tried to shine. They still haven’t realised that working as a team and winning the task is still the only guaranteed way to avoid getting fired. Odyssey’s journey went from bad to worse as they realised at the 11th hour that Chameleon didn’t fit the brand concept. Rather than change either the name or the target market, pm Andrew carried on regardless. This was in spite of the rest of the team trying to persuade him otherwise.There was even a first (I think) when an exasperated Nick Hewer told the team they needed to get on with it. I’ve never seen one of the observer’s get involved in the task before, so things must have been bad.

This lack of belief in the product came out in the pitch, when the usually reliable Navdeep gave a poor performance. Selling an idea or a product is as much about confidence as it is about the product. If both are poor, you have no chance.

That Platinum won the task was down to the product and not the team. Maria and Ashleigh disagreed on everything, and Patrick drifted into the background, finding his niche (ironically) as a would-be macho voice-over man.

In the boardroom, it was revealed that Strexy had stood out more than Chameleon (naturally). Andrew chose to bring back Navdeep and Steven (whom he had worked with throughout the task). Lucy survives for another week. All of the team were united that Andrew was to blame for the failure of leadership, and not making critical decisions. Sugar agreed, citing the decision not to change name or concept as the critical error. Navdeep’s poor pitch was also highlighted, but all of the evidence pointed to Andrew being fired and he should have been. A tearful Andrew waited for the finder of death, but instead in a genuine surprise it was Navdeep who went. I still can’t work out how Sugar came to this conclusion. Yes, she was a one trick pony who suddenly couldn’t do the trick, but at the very least Andrew should have gone as well. Amazing and illogical.

Apparently next week there is a double firing. It should have been this week. This series has been poor and it just hit a new low. The candidates are poor, and Sugar’s decision making defies logic. Young Apprentice has always been a television programme, but this week we saw just how much the television agenda is obviously leading the purported purpose of the programme. Poor

Young Apprentice Week 5 – Child’s Play

Your firedYoung Apprentice Week 5 – Child’s Play.

As we enter the second half of this year’s competition, we have 8 candidates left. David, Steven, Andrew and Patrick remain for the boys, with Ashleigh, Lucy, Navdeep and Maria representing the girls.

The task this week was to design a new children’s activity and pitch it to  several holiday providers. Sugar mixed up the teams (Steven and Andrew swapped) and the first task was to agree on PMs. After last week’ experience, Ashleigh had obviously decided that there was no way David was leading again, and she forced persuaded Platinum to give her the role. In Odyssey, Maria suffered a similar fate to David and was overlooked in favour of Navdeep. Lesson: a true leader needs to inspire confidence and in a democracy if you don’t, you’re out. Neither David (opinionated, but backs down and has no business sense) or Maria (a bull in a china shop) inspire.

Next the teams had to decide upon a theme. Maria didn’t let the small matter of not being the leader stop her from forcing persuading Odyssey to go for a Space theme. Ashleigh  used her well known intuition (at least to herself, “it’s never wrong”) to force persuade her team to go for an eco-art theme. These two ladies are not short of confidence and self belief, but can railroad their ideas through, if allowed. Lucy in particular was concerned about the art theme, preferring a dance approach. She argued skilfully, as any aspiring lawyer should, butt ultimately she gave  in to leader Ashleigh. To her credit she did this with good grace and got behind the project.

Ultimately, this task proved to be the unstoppable force (Maria) against the immovable object (Ashleigh). Both ideas had some merit and some flaws . For Odyssey it was the costings, which were guessed at. Ashleigh did not make this mistake, as accounting is her thing. What she demonstrated this week is that she has no real creative flair. The art idea was copied and more thorough market research (say parents rather than children) might have revealed that collecting your children from an activity all covered in paint would not bee popular!

In the boardroom, Odyssey’s Space theme took off, whereas Platinum’s Art theme came crashing down to earth. Odyssey won by a massive amount.

Ashleigh chose to bring back David (inevitably) and Andrew (surprisingly) as he was the one person who (reluctantly) supported her. Lucy was spared, as Ashleigh possibly recognised that she should have listened to her colleague.

David was fired for being generally useless and Andrew’s card was marked for possibly being someone Sugar may not like! Ashleigh escaped major criticism, though she did not perform well here. She will make an excellent Finance Director, but not a Managing Director.

Of the rest, Lucy is quietly impressive with the best communication skills. She is my bet to win. Steven may run her close. Navdeep was found lacking this week, with Maria driving thee project. Maria is probably more effective in this back seat driver role, but her brash nature means she will find trust hard to acquire.

Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party

Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party.

It’s half way in the race to be Lord Sugar’s latest Young Apprentice, and we have 8 candidates left. Nine became eight, this week as “egg farmer” Alice Smith departed. Alice was PM of Odyssey, and paid the price for some poor leadership.

This week’s task was to design a themed Afternoon Tea. Alice pushed for a 1940s theme, whereas Platinum, helmed by David, opted for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party theme.

In truth, both PMs were poor, and if Platinum had lost the task there is no doubt David would have been fired. He showed no leadership or organisational skills at all, and it was trainee Accountant Ashleigh who drove the team on. Once it was revealed that this task was about profit, she organised the ingredients (cheap), the menu (basic) and the pricing (under £7  per person, so cheap again). But it worked.

So, where did Odyssey go wrong? If we assess Alice’s leadership against John Adair’s “Action Centred Leadership model“, we can see where it went wrong. Adair says a good leader has to get the balance right between clarity of TASK, building a strong, interdependent TEAM and every INDIVIDUAL being clear about their role and committed. Alice managed to have failings in all 3 areas;

TASK – as stated above, the task is about maximising profit. Alice wanted to go “High End”, but was unclear about her target market. The team knew they would be selling at a well known tourist location (Blenheim Palace), so where is the guarantee that “High End” punters would be there? What they actually found was a lot of older people, who were attracted to the 1940s theme, and families. Evidence was shown of people, especially families, being put off by the high prices (£16). In the end, Alice reduced the prices, but the damage was done. Reducing prices bit into profit, but the real error was a poorly thought out Marketing Strategy, one that Alice pushed for.

TEAM – lets be honest, Alice inherited Maria, who is going to be a challenge for anyone. Yes, she modified her abrasive behaviour to people’s faces, but instead made sure to brief against them (especially Alice) behind their back. It was no surpries that Maria was brought back into the boardroom, but she survived for another week because the fault in the task was more to do with Alice. Maria can’t possibly survive another boardroom (nor can David), as even Nick Hewer admitted to her face he is not impressed!

INDIVIDUAL – to compound the errors made above, there was a general lack of role clarity, especially in the sub team doing Market Research. Alice gave the sub team a clear mandate to do research, but they seemed unable or unwilling to make decisions. Alice needed to be much clearer about who was doing what, and what the limits of their authority was. Alice seemed to believe she had given more autonomy to the sub team than they seemed comfortable with. The other aspect of this is commitment. The nature of Young Apprentice is that it is competitive, but you are guaranteed to survive if you win the task, so inter-dependence should be assured. Watching this series, our candidates don’t seem to have worked this out!

In the boardroom it was revealed that Odyssey had lost the task by a considerable margin. Alice brought Maria (expected) back and Navdeep (unexpected) back. The 2 girls in the sub-team ganged up on Alice, and the lack of a clear reason from the task (Alice aluded to Navdeep’s general unsuitablility to business) reinforced her poor judgement and she went. It was the correct decision for this task.

Of the remaining 8 candidates, Andrew looked good this week, in the losing team. Patrick was barely seen, so probably did little. Navdeep is yet to show anything (Alice may be right there). Maria is a liability, and along with David surely can’t win? Ashleigh has good business sense around numbers, but lacks creativity and is hard to warm to. Steven is another who has yet to show anything, but he does at least contribute. For me, Lucy and Andrew impress most, but both have flaws. These 2 are the best of a poor lot. This series have been grat (car crash) TV, bit the candidates are poor.