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THE APPRENTICE - Task Five 
“What did you read when you were 3 – 5 years old; War and Peace?” Lord Sugar, Episode 5 

Image supplied by www.tv.bt.com 
Task 5 and this was where the teams were required to be creative and embrace their inner child; a concept which it has to be said, Elle appeared to grasp perfectly, as she wore her tiara throughout much of the planning day. Only topped by the sight of Selina in 'elephant ears'… 
 
The challenge was to create a children’s book, along with an audio book and then pitch the book to two National Bookshops, as well as local bookstores, to persuade them to sell the books onto the general public. The PM selection this week was simplified for team Connexus, when Lord Sugar moved Sam across to that team, along with one of those trademark ‘strong hints’, that this task 'would be right up his street as a personal tutor/academic' and sensibly (or given how the task went, not!) Sam accepted this challenge and put himself up as PM. 
 
Fortunately, April had previously been PM, so the fact of her having a ‘creative writing degree’, which she clearly made known to the team, was ignored by Lord Sugar and Charleine was free to make an unchallenged bid to be PM for team Versatile. There always has to be some degree of concern though, when a person pitching to be a PM on a book writing task sells herself as 'not having the best vocabulary or the best English skills’… 
 
Both PMs on this task demonstrated a distinct lack of any strategic or organisational thinking and both approached the task in a haphazard fashion; so for the team who would ultimately win the task, it was always going to be a case of ‘good luck’ triumphing over ‘good management’!! 
 
If we first look at Charleine; I have worked for over 20 years within HR and for most of that time, the issue of workplace ‘bullying’ has been prevalent, in terms of media awareness and coverage. Bullying manifests itself in many ways and one of the key characteristics of bullying behaviour is about undermining an individual, particularly in front of their peers; which is exactly what Charleine did to Richard in the task. She nominated him as sub-team leader, then proceeded to only deal with David; getting him to repeat everything that she had been told by Richard!! 
Don’t get me wrong; I get where she was coming from on this one. I don’t believe that Richard has done anything to endear himself to many people in the process thus far, in fact if it wasn’t for the bizarre fact that he appears to have been on every winning team so far, I’m fairly sure that he would have been fired by now. But there are more positive ways of managing difficult people in a project team, ways which enable you as PM, to maintain your authority and the respect of your team.  
 
Undermining Richard was not the best approach to take... 
 
Image obtained from 123rf.com 
As we saw in this task, Charleine soon became the laughing stock of her sub-team and probably, albeit less visibly, the rest of the team too. A PM who has lost their credibility will soon find that carrying out the simplest of tasks, including decision-making, become increasingly difficult. 
 
Of course, as the task concluded, we learned that there had been just one glimmer of brilliance from Charleine in an otherwise poor performance as PM; this was to make a bulk sale of books to the Rainforest Café at a reasonable price and this saw her snatching victory from the jaws of defeat… 
So what of Sam; the classic academic people pleaser… If Sam had had a month to create a concept and deliver a children’s book and audio book, instead of a day, I suspect that he would still have struggled!!! His reasoning and rationale was probably without fault; he appeared to understand cognitive development needs, perhaps not specifically of 3 – 5 year olds, but more generally and how these needed to be incorporated into the finished book. But, what he fundamentally failed to grasp as a PM is that with only 12-hours to turn the product around; planning and understanding the critical pathway of a project was crucial to success. At one point during the task, he told the sub-team to go ahead and record the song for their audiobook - without even giving them the story that they would need to pair the song with! 
 
However, where Sam truly failed in this task as PM, was in the management of the finances. At the end of the day and having failed to sell any books to Foyles, Charleine’s team only went on to sell 5 more books than Sam’s team, yet made £102 more than them. Whilst some of these limited edition books have now found their way onto eBay, I certainly didn’t see any of the candidates make any sale which would suggest that the win was entirely down to those extra 5 books…  
 
Whilst Sam was ultimately accountable for this failing as PM; Selina, once again demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of basic finance principals. Having failed last week to be able to calculate the cost of a cat-tower to complete her sale, she appeared to completely fail to grasp the basic premise of bulk-selling – that the more items people are willing to buy, the lower the price, not the other way around. Instead, she initially offered Foyles 150 copies of the book at a unit price of £4.20 and when they said they only wanted 50 copies, she brought the price down by 70p per copy to a unit price of £3.50. This meant that they only made £175 as opposed to the £210 they could have made for this sale. 
 
However, she wasn’t the only one to fail spectacularly on the numbers; Natalie’s performance in the shop in Hackney was quite unbelievable. She was shown in the car looking extremely bored, while Brett outlined to her the figures that she would need to make her pitch to the shop owner; so, when she was asked to explain what discount she would get in percentage terms, Natalie looked as though the woman was speaking to her in Mandarin Chinese! This highly unprofessional performance from Natalie, prompted the shop owner to bring the pitch to an end, categorically stating that not only was the book not for her shop, it wasn’t for Hackney full-stop!! 
 
I think we’ll skip over the whole ridiculousness of Sam trying to sell copies of a children’s book to dealers of collectible books and first editions in Charing Cross and head back into the Boardroom… Where, as we have already covered, the outcome was that Bizzie Bee triumphed over Snottydink and it was down to Sam to decide who to bring back into the Boardroom… Another painful moment as he dithered about that one too… 
Ultimately, it was Natalie and Brett who were chosen; probably a lucky escape for Selina, as I suspect that had she been chosen, given she was already on her last chance and would most definitely have been fired… 
 
As the tension mounted, we were expecting a double-firing this week, the fickle finger of fate came to rest on Natalie this week, with Sam escaping by the hairs on his chinny chin!!! 
Image obtained from cosmickids.com 
Image obtained from newallphoto.blogspot.com 
But who should have gone? 
Absolutely the right decision this week! I can be a sceptical person at times; but alarm bells rang for me when Natalie feigned a ‘cough’ worthy of an Oscar in order to get out of doing the main pitch… Why?? Because the pitch was to a Company that she claimed to already have a business relationship with - but why would you pass up the chance, in a process like this, to potentially build on a relationship that was already there in order to gain advantage over the other team???  
In my view and having seen her approach to pitching, methinks that there is a ‘story’ there worthy of a dig around… On the whole though, recognising that she is still relatively young, I felt that she displayed an immaturity to the process which meant that she came across very defensively, especially when questioned or challenged; and for that reason, it was very definitely the right time for her to go… 
 
What we learnt about the Candidates… 
 
Another week where we have to completely forget what we have learnt about the candidates; this week we learnt that Karren and Claude, despite their hugely successful careers, really just want to be storytellers on Jackanory!!! Check out their efforts in the videos here… 
... And then there were 13... 
 
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