Friday, October 29, 2010

Week 7: Create a backers’ audition for a musical

My two cents on The Apprentice
Week 7
Task : Create a backers’ audition for a Broadway musical.
Judged on:
  • Marketing material
  • Overall presentation of the backers’ audition

As Week 7 starts, it’s clear that both teams are just sick and tired of all the sideshows that keep distracting them from their tasks each week. Will we be saved from David the virus?
Will Mahsa’s overbearing personality finally wear out everyone’s patience?
Honestly, each week I look forward to what Liza is going to be accused of and what ridiculous thing David is going to do.

The teams are tasked with creating a backers’ audition presentation for a musical. All they have is a score and the script.
Brandy and Mahsa declare war on each other. Hopefully this will distract the rest of the team from Liza. It’s about time. Just let the poor girl compete please. Mahsa says Liza is incompetent. Wow! Mahsa should look in the mirror.
I am happy that Liza stepped up to be the project manager, unfortunately she has no idea what a Broadway musical is. This might be a disadvantage for her. However, this being a team project, the rest of the team should bring her up to speed on what a Broadway show is.At this point, it might seem obvious that the ladies will sabotage Liza as PM so that she can get fired. Unfortunately for the ladies, I do not think Liza is getting fired just yet.
As Fortitude works on their project, it is clear that Stephanie wants to take the main responsibility of the task. She says she has studied with the royal conservatory for over  30 years. Is she not the same person that said she is done carrying the whole team on her back? She also goes on to say that Liza has no culture. Excuse me. There is no one that has no culture. That's like saying someone does not have a heartbeat or a brain. Just because my culture is not similar to yours does not mean that I have no culture. I am sure that if Stephanie traveled to another country, she would find things that she has never seen before. Does that mean that she has no culture?
Liza looks like she is managing the project well. Getting Mahsa and Stephanie out of the room and tasking them with the design was a very smart move since you do not want these two creating chaos in the task.
I love Liza’s introduction of their presentation. It grabs your attention and prepares you for the presentation. Their presentation was great too except that it felt like the narrations were interrupting the flow of the show. Another huge mistake was failing to include a list of the producers. This is the main purpose of the task; Get sponsorship for the production of the musical.
Steuart steps up to be the PM for Octane let’s see what he is made of. David shocks me with his good points and creative ideas about the actual presentation. It’s interesting that Steuart has already decided that if David’s ideas do not work out, then David will be under fire. The men have a great presentation unfortunately, at the end, Steuart overshadows the this by his lackluster closing shot.
Enter the boardroom...
At this point, it’s not clear who won this task. The judges agreed that both presentations were great, the marketing material was to the point and easy to understand.The ladies lost because they did not include a list of the producers.
Mahsa and Stephanie were tasked with the design. However, Stephanie is trying to defend herself by saying that she does not think her musical background was exploited to the fullest. I think it was though, because she helped choose the five songs for the presentation and the general flow. Didn’t she say that she did not want to shoulder all the responsibilities anymore.
In a very interesting turn of events, the focus of the boardroom shifts from the tasks to Mahsa’s theatricals. Mr. Trump, Ivanka and Don Jr. all agree on how unprofessional she is. Mahsa was portrayed as a liar and a dishonest contestant. Her lack of loyalty to her team was also questioned. Unfortunately, the ladies’ loss was overshadowed by Mahsa’s theatrics that have been building up to a climax throughout the weeks. And it all came back to haunt her. I love the way Brandy said “it’s all coming down.”

It’s time for Mahsa to take a bow.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Week 6: Create and Sell a Pedicab tour of New York City.

My two cents on The Apprentice
Week 6
Task : Create and Sell a Pedicab Tour of New York City
Judged on: Sales

Week 6’s task is to Create and Sell a Pedicab tour of New York City.
All the contestants need to:
  • Pass the test and get the license
  • Design a tour and sell it
  • Peddle their behinds off across NYC.
Obviously, the team with the most sales wins.

It’s back to the suite and Liza faces a cat attack from her feline teammates. Kelly lets us in on a little secret; all the other ladies have been trying to get rid of Liza and she has been defending her. She promises to stop defending Liza from now on. I don’t think Liza needs defending. She’s a strong player, sincere and very respectful of her team members. The problem with her teammates is that they want to play dirty. Every time Liza has pointed out something it was a genuine comment. It’s Liza against the world, literally.
I am glad that Kelly steps up to be PM. She has been in the shadows for most of the previous tasks. I think she was OK on the last task except for not acting on the man with scabby feet and for suggesting the tacky finale. (Read Week 5 blog here).
Unfortunately, Kelly and Mahsa do not pass the test pedicab riding test. This is a huge blow to the team since it means that they have two less drivers.
The ladies decide to target Wall Street’s lunch time crowd and use their sex appeal to attract the men. Since Kelly is a bit hesitant about this concept she should strongly voice her opinion at this point. And she does have a valid point. Men on Wall Street are busy. People that work on Wall Street use their lunches for quick impromptu meetings or informal consultations.Hopefully the ladies’ sex appeal can save them.
The ladies’ team starts to panic when they do not make any sales for a couple of hours but why is Liza announcing that they have free rides without consulting the rest of the team?
Mahsa throws a fit because Kelly tells Eric Trump that Poppy is doing really well in sales. She goes on to say that Poppy is only 23 years old with no experience and no leadership abilities. But hello, she is selling and that’s all that matters at this particular time.
Brandy couldn't have put it better; “Mahsa is overbearing. People that are truly confident in themselves don’t need to tell other people how wonderful they are”.
Maybe Kelly shouldn’t have singled out Poppy since all the girls worked hard to bring in the crowd. What an outcry it created. If the girls end up in the boardroom, Mahsa and Stephanie will definitely not defend Kelly.
I wonder why they are wasting precious time fighting instead of bagging those last minute sales.
In team Octane David has  clearly declared war on Steuart. Anand steps up to be PM.I am looking forward to a great performance. From his contributions in the boardroom, I think he has the exposure and skills needed to run a small business. He’s a small business owner too, so that’s a plus for him.
Anand is very focused and is doing a great job so far as PM. They focus on pre-sales a day in advance and try to create a buzz about their new venture.They also add value to the pedicab ride by running it as a roman chariot. Very smart. Buyers always look for the “it” factor that would make them patronize one business and not the competitor.
David immediately checks out from the task. He is not contributing any ideas. He lurks in the background and when he comes to the forefront, he is just there to create a disturbance.His defence “he always likes to ruffle feathers because it gives him a rise and its funny”. I do not think a potential employer would like such a character in his team. David’s tour ride is despicable. He tells a sad tale of how he no longer has money and that’s why his wife left him. No one wants to pay for a pedicab tour to listen to someone else’s marital problems. There are too many TV shows that focus on that and they are free. Overall, the men look like they are doing pretty well in sales. They chose a really good location, right outside Trump Towers. A prime location to meet tourists.
Enter the boardroom...
Clint begs and implores Mr. Trump to rid the team of the plague manifested as David. David clearly states that he does not respect anyone. There should at least be one person that he can work with. He is immature, disrespectful and lacks focus. The men trumped the women hands down.
And why is it not surprising that Kelly would say Liza has the best opportunity for growth. Liza runs her own business for Pete’s sake. A business that was very successful before the recession. I actually think that Kelly is currently the weakest player in team Fortitude.
For once Mahsa is not very confident that they won.
The ladies are out to get Liza. In a task that they clearly lost because of choosing a poor location and an ineffective PM, they still pick on Liza. Mahsa and the three blondes all pick on Liza because they know that if it boils down to the location, they would all be in jeopardy.
Kelly made two huge mistakes in bringing Stephanie and Liza back to the boardroom.
Stephanie did choose the location together with Mahsa, Brandy and Poppy. However, she is one tough cookie. She is not going down.
Ivanka and Mr. Trump already pointed out that it was not really Liza’s fault that she couldn’t sell on Wall Street. Men on Wall Street are too busy to ride a pedicab.It is clear that Liza will not be fired. I am glad that she distanced herself for the “boardroom fight” between Kelly and Stephanie.
Unfortunately, Kelly has nothing on Stephanie, who went on to paint a very clear picture of what a bad PM Kelly was. She pointed out how Kelly delegated everything to her.
In the end, Kelly is fired and I totally agree with Mr. Trump on this one. 

Stephanie is the contestant to watch. Her ferocity really caught me off guard me on this one! I think she's gonna try to sink her teeth into her teammates jugular, getting rid of them one by one.

Stay tuned...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 5: Fashion show for Rockport Spring/Summer 2011 Footwear

My two cents on The Apprentice
Week 5
Task: Fashion show for Rockport Spring/Summer 2011 Footwear.
Judged on: The team that presents the best fashion show that brings out the walkability of the brand wins.

Week 5’s task is to present a fashion show for Rockport Spring/Summer 2011 footwear.
The team that presents the best fashion show that brings out the walkability of the brand wins.

I think its time to have the teams reshuffled.
I like the look on Brandy’s face when Mahsa comes back from the boardroom. She mentions that Mahsa’s finger does not belong in the corporate world.
Stephanie steps up as PM for the ladies’ team and immediately sets the tone; “do your job and if you do it, we’ll win”.She carefully delegates the tasks and clearly explains what each team member is supposed to do. Kelly suggests that for the finale they should bring all the models out in their underwear. I think the ladies are probably still recovering from the fact that they did not push the envelope on the previous task. But I think going to the extreme on this current task might come off as tacky.
The ladies look  like they have the task in control. Their preparation for the task seems very smooth, the division of labour is very distinct. However, Kelly should have done something about the man with scabs all over his legs. Probably have him modeling trousers not shorts. As if that was not enough, the ladies still insisted on having the men come out in their underwear for the grand finale. From the expressions in the crowd, this was not such a smart move. The MC is very fluent and her presentation matches well with the modeling. Her narration truly keeps the audience glued and entertained and brings out the walk-ability aspect of the Rockport shoes.

In team Octane,Wade finally gets his chance to be PM. He appoints David and Gene as MCs. Considering the fact that David had a recent dental malfunction, it would have been safe to have him perform other duties because he might have been on pain killers. Also, David is sort of a loose cannon and having observed him in the previous tasks and in the boardroom, I doubt he can work up a crowd. At least not the sort of crowd that you would find in a fashion show. As the show progresses we see chaos during the rehearsals. It’s not really clear how Dave and Gene were supposed to share the role of MC and they have a difficult time collaborating on their task. This clearly shows during both the preparations and the rehearsals. Dave makes fun during the rehearsals. As the PM, wade should have stepped in and tried to save the situation.During the fashion show, Gene mixes up the names of the shoes and the names of the models. David abandons Gene on stage. It’s funny that Wade should mention the only way they can win is if the women sent naked models out.
Enter the boardroom...
The men were so terrible that Mr. Trump promptly sent Fortitude back to the suite and kept all the men in the boardroom.
The clear choice would be to fire Wade. He was a hands off PM. He did delegate the duties but when Dave and Gene were rehearsing, Wade should have realized that they would not deliver as MCs. He should have tested their public speaking skills. Mr. Trump says Dave should have chosen Steuart and Anand as MCs. Unfortunately this power duo cannot do everything. They were already in charge of casting and dressing the models.
On the other hand, Gene and Dave should be fired for not delivering as MCs and that is ultimately why the men lost. It is interesting how David would jump in and try to discredit Anand and Steuart (who have done a great job on all the tasks so far) and yet he pretty much demanded to be MC and then he ran away from the stage when he realized that Gene was messing up.
Eventually, Gene and Wade are fired. I think that Dave should have been fired too. I would have really liked to see how far Gene would have gone in this competition. I think he has great potential and he is very competitive. As for Wade, he probably did not know exactly what to do to manage David’s passion.
Once again, David survives the boardroom. He truly is like the proverbial cat with nine lives.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Week 4: Create a viral video for Kettlecorn from Popcorn Indiana

My two cents on The Apprentice
Week 4
Task : Create a video advertising popcorn from Popcorn Indiana
Judged on: The potential of the video to go viral

Competition is heating up on the Apprentice.
Week 4’s task is to create a guerrilla marketing stunt. A video promoting popcorn from Popcorn Indiana.  
The winning team would be the one that creates a video with the potential to go viral.

As Week 4 starts, I am still yet to see any strategies in both teams. It seems the only one with a strategy in Octane is David; His strategy is ”make the PM’s task as difficult as possible, so the PM can be fired”.
In  the previous task, David survives the boardroom yet again. He lets Steuart know that he is not happy that Steuart called him out with regards to his insubordination of James.
According to Steuart, David brings negative energy to the team. I would have liked to see Wade as PM, especially since he had promised Mr. Trump that he could manage David and put David’s “passion” to good use. Clint is the new PM having stepped up when Wade was still in the boardroom. Hopefully, he can handle David. GOOD LUCK!
The men seem to have a better idea of what the video should look like. A popcorn fight on 5th avenue, outside Trump Tower CAN attract a huge crowd. According to Wade, since popcorn is a product that is used by the whole family, the concept might be too violent especially for kids. But kids have pillow fights all the time, that’s how I looked at it. I think the popcorn fight would bring an element of fun.
Octane gets a blessing in disguise since David has to be away from the task because of a broken tooth. They can work without distraction. They manage to stage a HUGE popcorn fight and their video has a good chance of going viral. I mean, they only shut down 5th avenue right in front of Trump Tower.
Mahsa steps up as PM for Fortitude. It will be interesting to see how Mahsa performs as PM since she has been extremely vocal and critical of the PM’s in previous tasks.
Tyana has a good understanding of what a viral video is. A stunt that is hilarious and filled with humour that a viewer would feel compelled to forward it to all their friends.
Unfortunately, she is not coming up with any substantive ideas or alternatives that the team can implement.
Mahsa tries to delegate the duties, however, it looks like she wants to direct the video shoot all by herself. This could be risky, because if it fails, then she would have no one to blame. But she would probably pin it on someone else by saying that they did not help.Fortitude’s video is a good commercial but I do not see it going viral. Tyana probably made the worst decision when she decided to distance herself from the final phase of the project. It shows that she is not a good team player.
Enter the boardroom...
I think its pretty clear who the winner is. Tyana says that she does not think they won. She has not even seen the men’s video. Mahsa goes for the jugular and says that she thinks Tyana has been the weakest link for each of the tasks they have had so far. Tyana openly admires and appreciates the men’s video and Mahsa cannot believe what she is hearing. She calls Tyana evil.
I like the look on the men’s face as they watch the ladies’ video. They are probably thinking “did the women not see the words stunt and guerrilla in the description of the task?”
Mahsa tries to say that they did not have enough time but Ivanka points out that both teams had the same amount of time. Mahsa quickly drops this point of defence because it would expose her as a poor time manager. Apparently, Liza and Tyana did not contribute in the creativity part but how could they when they were sent out to run errands. However she did not single out Poppy, even though she was out shopping too, and hence did not contribute to the creativity. Mahsa then claims that she did not have any help shooting the video and blames Liza. But she had help because Tyana had one of the videocams.
Mr. Don Jr. suggests that if the women’s video was a bit more extreme it would have had a good chance of going viral. Mahsa agrees vehemently yet she was the same one that kept telling one of the actors to tone it down.
Fortitude lost because they did not push the idea to the extreme. For this, Mahsa as the PM should have been fired.
However, Tyana had irked all the members of the team by checking out on the task. She was not a good team player and criticized the ideas that were put forth by the other team members without offering any alternatives. Tyana keeps insisting that they lost because of the concept even after Ivanka mentions that the executives liked the idea, it was just not pushed enough.
Tyana gets fired and Mahsa heaves a sigh of relief. Again, it’s not clear why Liza was brought back to the boardroom.
Hopefully, having been a PM, Mahsa will try to follow direction when the other team members are PMs.
Most important aspect of project management that is highlighted this week is being a team player.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Week 3: Run Hotel and Spa for dogs

My two cents on The Apprentice
Week 3
Task : Run a Hotel and Spa for dogs.
Judged on:

* Execution of responsibilities
* Creativity and sustainability of the value add
* Overall experience

Wow ! Week 3 started on a very sour note. You would think there was a memo to “attack” Liza.
Stephanie suggests that Liza “shut up, accept what people say and move on, learn from it”.

 It’s about time James stepped up as PM for Octane. He looks very confident about this task. David is readying himself to make Jame’s job as PM extremely difficult. Wade came up with the value add; A log that shows the owners what the dogs have been doing the whole day.James assigns the most important component of the task to Dave. Dave has to set up the web-cams.
James makes a huge mistake by not giving audience to the owner, hence the expression “dollar waiting on a dime”. It does not matter how much planning you do or how brilliant your ideas are. If your product or service is not meeting the owner’s needs then you will still fail.This is a service delivery task. Services are not really tangible and James should have listened to the owner of the business so they could learn the business from someone who does this day in day out. It’s more like on-the job training.

It’s not clear why David is involved with the props and trying to make nails out of binder clips. At what point was he going to start on the web-cams? James did what most project managers have thought of doing numerous times before: benching a troublesome team-member. A good PM should know how to manage a difficult team-member. But what if you are on a strict deadline? Get rid of the distraction. Why was everyone trying to talk at the same time during the presentation to Cesar Millan? It gives the impression that they are not that organized. They should have let James handle the presentation.

In Fortitude’s fortress, Tyana looks like she’s trying her best to delegate but why put Mahsa to work directly with the dogs when she has clearly stated that she is scared of dogs. This does not augur well with Mahsa who in turn calls Tyana a “jealous cow” and thus it’s time for her to go home. I am not sure jealousy would hold up as a reason to get Mr Trump to fire Tyana though.The ladies seem to be faring well, but it seems the team is looking for any flimsy reason to gang up against Liza. I guess, their strategy is get rid of the strongest member of the team who also happens to be the biggest threat.If anyone has worked with computers, designing websites, graphic design etc, we know things always go wrong when you least expect it. Their value add which includes a photo and a description of what the dog did is good but not really out of this world.

In the boardroom, the “attack” on Liza continues with one of the team members bringing up an incident that did not even have to do with this particular task; the allegation that Liza called one of her team-mates a b****. The ladies are already baying for Liza’s blood yet they are not even sure whether they lost or won.

I still do not understand why David survived the boardroom. It might be because James made it very easy to get fired and literally gave David a new lease of life. David is like the proverbial “cat with nine lives”. Wade was as surprised as most of us that he was brought back to the boardroom.

I do hope that Wade will step up and show us how to manage David. If he can, then he should be the next apprentice because the real world of business is full of people like David who are very difficult to work with and do not care for leadership.

In the end though, despite of everything, Octane lost because of the PM. I have a feeling not listening to the owner was the biggest mistake of this task.

My Verdict:
Execution of responsibilities
Creativity & sustainability of value add
Overall experience