Monday, March 7, 2011

Celebrity Apprentice Project Management

The Celebrity Apprentice has all the project management elements of the original Apprentice show: teams must initiate, plan, execute, control and close out a project during a two hour show, but with one added wild card. The celebrities can call in favors from their rich friends and fans on the outside to add money to any project and make it 'win'. And that is usually the definition of winning, raising more money for charity than the competing team.

Let's examine last night's show. The challenge was to run a pizzeria for four hours. That meant learning how to run the various stations from preparing the dough, to making and cutting up the pizza, to selling and marketing the pizza. The project manager's job was to organize this chaos to make it a success. In addition to all their tasks, the team members needed to raise money from their rich friends. The project manager needed to give the team members time to do this, and had to encourage this fund-raising behaviour but couldn't do the actual fund-raising for them.  Early in the planning session we saw Hatch urging his team to get on the phones and solicit the donations rather than think about the pizzas yet.

The women's team was a disaster in getting the pizzeria running efficiently. Star, the women's PM, delegated some of the women to the hard work of preparing the ingredients while she created a useless piece of graphic art. Then she placed Dionne Warwick on the credit card machine where she seemed to spend her entire time slowly dialing up the Psychic Hotline.

Richard Hatch, the men's PM, delegated everyone to working and made sure everything was in place, though he alienated his team by doing none of the hard work himself. He also 'pushed' David Cassidy out of the way to stop him from distracting the entire team.
You can see the awful 'physical abuse' of poor David Cassidy at about minute 21 on this clip:

Once the task got going, the men were running like a well-oiled machine. Gary Busey was out with Lil Jon and John Rich drumming up sales and donations. Jose Canseco was making the pies with minimal help from David Cassidy, who needed multiple smoke breaks. The rest of the team was cutting up and selling the pies and making big deals about donations in order drum up bigger ones. Hatch made the decision to limit the delivery area in order to bring in the most money in the four hours.

The women's team, with Dionne Warwick holding up the cash register was a disaster. At least Niki Taylor could make pies without raising a sweat. The delivery team was a wreck, not taking into account Manhattan traffic. (Did they know about the subway sytem that ran under the streets?) The $35,000 pies that were supposed to be delivered to Chelsea didn't even make it there. And Star closed the shop to street traffic to concentrate on the deliveries! At least Dionne caught up on the register once they stopped accepting new customers.

But who won? Thanks to a lot of huge donations by rich people, the women raised $115k compared to the men's $54k. Then someone had to be fired. Amazingly, almost the entire men's team wanted Hatch to be fired. And Hatch defended himself not by focusing on how well he managed the project but by undermining Cassidy. I think he could have easily shown that the project was successful in every way except for the collection of additional donations which was not under his control.

Watch the clip starting at about minute 60 to see how he cleverly undermines Cassidy's manliness during the boardroom session with his use of repetition in words like 'little', 'delicate', 'underdog', 'star'. It's very clever and it worked with Ivanka and both Donalds. Bringing Canseco in with him and deliberately sitting Cassidy between the two emphasized that the latter really is a little man. Cassidy didn't do himself any favors by looking to Canseco to protect him against Hatch's bullying and ended up being fired for looking weak.

Bottom line. I wish the tasks depended more on project management and less on calling in favors from your rich friends. I'll continue to judge the projects by my own criteria and I say the men won this task by a count of two to one.


  1. Thanks for reviewing this Bruce, now i don't have to watch!!!

    Hey, money talks, and the women won!!!

    The other lesson from Trump's shows is that they reveal his dog-eat-dog management methods... yuck!

  2. Maybe so, but this is a blog about project management, not fund-raising so I'll present the PM view of things. Two times this season the women won the fundraising while completely screwing up the project and I'm going to judge the teams solely on that. Clearly I care nothing for how Trump judges his people since all he wants is to be surrounded by sycophants.