Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thrown under the bus on Celebrity Apprentice

What do you do when finding yourself in this situation? You are coerced into being the Project Manager of a group where there are two factions. One wants to work with you to bring about success. The other group wants to cause you to look bad, even if the project fails due to their efforts. They will be closer to their goals because they believe you will be forced to leave the company when the project fails.

Actually, it sounds quite similar to a situation I faced at my one of my jobs in New Jersey. The previous PM had left the company in disgust at the QA/RA clique whose only contributions to the project appeared to be clamping the brakes on any effort R&D made to develop a new product, refusing to offer constructive solutions around the obstacles they placed in the engineer’s path, and then complaining to management that R&D never came up with any new products.

What I did was spend three weeks fighting my way through the ‘Storming’ phase of team development until we all agreed on a Project Objective that we used to complete the project. I had the benefit of time, a luxury Lisa Rinna lacked in this week’s Celebrity Apprentice.
While the men’s team ran smoothly except for a delivery snafu that seemed to be edited to add drama, the women’s team was another leaderless mess. They fought for the book’s concept, the characters, the basic theme. They violated the originality clause they had been given as a key criteria. Lisa allowed the arguing to escalate, not taking charge until being told to multiple times by her team-mates.
Meanwhile, Star Jones had gathered her cronies and set the stage for the demise of her rival. With NeNe and Dionne on her side, she proceeded to sabotage the project and do everything in her power to make Lisa look bad. She wrote the children’s book but refused to approve it during a tense scene designed to put pressure on Lisa and force her to take the fall if it failed. Then she turned around after the approval to ask that her name appear on the cover as author and Dionne’s as conceiver. The ego of these women! Fortunately Lisa vetoed this and left the team name as author.
Star belittled Lisa during her pep talk before the performance, showing clearly that lines had been drawn. But it wasn’t until the boardroom that the claws came out in force. Lisa was clearly intimidated by the ferocity of the attacks she sustained there and said it all when she admitted that she wasn’t used to fighting this meanly.

She had plenty of ammunition she could have used to defend herself against the condemnation of Star and her cronies. The project failed for three reasons:
  1. The story was unoriginal
  2. The concept was too advanced for the five year-old audience
  3. The font size was too small
All three of these faults could have been laid directly at the feet of the two women who wanted their names on the book. Add that to the fact that their egos had driven them to want to rise above their team and Lisa could have buried either of them. But she didn’t bring it up herself and spent the whole time trying to defend against the attacks. The one time she tried to elicit support from the rest of the team, it only emphasized her weakness. She turned to her team and asked, “Did I run around like a chicken with its head cut off...completely?” Even Don junior picked up on this and criticized her roundly.

There were a couple of funny scenes in the full board-room. In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, (can we use that expression on Apprentice, Omarosa?) Trump critiqued Lisa’s lips. And then when Marlee Matlin referred to Dionne Warwick as ‘people tell me she's a legend’, Trump forgot she was deaf and was incredulous that Marlee didn’t think Warwick was indeed a legend. Duh!

Instead of Lisa bringing back with her the two players most responsible for the project’s failure, she brought Star and Dionne back simply because they were being mean to her earlier. And they crucified her. Statements Lisa made like, “This is a learning experience for me,” were pounced on by Star as evidence of her weakness.

As much as I prefer her personality to Star’s, the decision Trump made was correct. Lisa was a weak leader and everyone, including Lisa, knew it. She had to be fired.

Here’s a link to the full episode.

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