The Apprentice – Week Nine: Food Boxes

Nov 30, 2017 | #howtobeaPM, #howtowinthe apprentice, agile, projects in plain english, the apprentice

The candidates gather at London’s Borough Market, where Lord Sugar tasks them with creating a brand new recipe kit. One half of each team will create the branding while the other half devises a tasty dish to represent their chosen food trend.

Focus on products

This week’s task was a proper project with a strong focus on product development. But there was less project management going on than in the average episode of Strictly. The teams had to deliver five things: a brand name, a recipe, a package, a finished dish and a pitch to an audience of experts. Both teams delivered uniformly mediocre products. The fact that one team’s pitch was less excruciating than the other’s was the winning margin.

Credit: BBC

focus on products The Apprentice Food Boxes Projects in Plain English

The worst pitch in Apprentice history?

Roles and Responsibilities

It was a tough challenge, especially now that we’re down to teams of just four people. And it was a perfect demonstration of the old saying that it’s people, not processes, that cause a project to succeed or fail. Both project managers made poor choices when it came to allocating roles and responsibilities. Anybody who’s seen a single episode of this series would know that combining Jade and Joanna was never going to work. But after putting themselves under pressure through poor organisation the PMs could have made life much easier for themselves if they’d applied some simple agile techniques.

Lean Startup

Lean Startup is about growing a new business through innovation in an uncertain market. It’s perfect for this task. At the heart of the method is the idea that gaining feedback on an idea as quickly as possible helps a team to understand what they’re trying to achieve. It requires a development team to be bold; get something out there and find out what people think of it rather than agonising over producing the perfect finished article. Both teams could have applied this idea to their choice of brand name. The first name that Jade came up with – “Food for Thought” –  nailed the brief perfectly. If they’d suggested it to Harrison straight away he would probably have gone for it  – and they would have had a lot more time to focus on the branding and packaging.

Credit: BBC

focus on products The Apprentice Food Boxes Projects in Plain English

“I may be dressed as a pea, but the recipe doesn’t have pea in it…”

User Stories

Developing user stories is a quick and simple but effective way of identifying the features that a product needs. It’s based on asking “who, what and why”. Writing a user story means putting yourself in the shoes of the people who will be using the product. For example: “I’m a young professional, I want to be able to cook a nutritious dish using fresh ingredients but I don’t have time to create my own recipes” or “I’m a keen cook but I need to be guided step by step through a recipe because I don’t have much experience”. User stories take a little practise but once they become second nature to a development team the planning process becomes much more efficient. Most importantly, there’s less risk that essential features – like having the name of the dish and its ingredients on the packaging – are missed out.

Credit: BBC

focus on products The Apprentice Food Boxes Projects in Plain English

Team Vitality’s packaging, missing a few essential features

Prioritisation

Once you’ve identified the features that a product needs to have you need to prioritize them. The MoSCoW technique is an effective way of doing this. MoSCoW stands for “Must have, should have, could have, won’t have. If Team Vitality had applied the technique to their packaging the chances are they would have ended up with something more effective than a plain cardboard box. The packaging must list the ingredients (it’s a legal requirement), it should include an attractive photo of the finished dish, it could have some funky graphics, it won’t include a list of other dishes in the range.

The result

In the absence of any real project management both teams were left to squabble their way through the task, demonstrating their advanced back-stabbing skills rather than any business nous. After what was arguably the worst pitch in Apprentice history, Team Graphene were declared the losers. Who was to blame? After being told she should “take the splinters out of your backside and make your mind up”, Bushra tried to defend her performance. “I took a risk. I’m not a funny person. I was wearing a pepper outfit…I needed to be funny and engaging”. “It wasn’t funny and it wasn’t engaging” said Karen Brady. Harsh but fair and that was the end of Bushra.

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