The professional role of project managers is becoming increasingly defined, and higher demands are being put on project managers within organisations. There is now expectation that project managers will have undertaken specific project management training.
With this increased professionalism amongst project managers comes upset when the term is misused. The Apprentice is one such example.
Over the last few years, team leaders on the Apprentice have gradually started calling themselves Project Managers, and this is now consistent throughout the series. Trained and certified project managers object to the term, citing that the Apprentice undervalues the profession because the candidates don’t use any defined project management framework or techniques.
Further to this, there is some debate about whether the weekly tasks can even be called projects due to their short and sales-based nature.
Defining a project
It’s very important for managers to recognise a project before it starts, and to assign a project manager to oversee it. Conversely, it’s important not to make a mountain out of a molehill by assigning the word ‘project’ to everyday, ongoing tasks.
Type “what is a project?” into Google and you get the definition “An individual or collaborative enterprise planned and designed to achieve an aim.” If you look at it in those terms then, yes, the weekly tasks on the Apprentice can be called projects. They are collaborative enterprises and they do have to achieve an aim – to make the more money than the other team.
In the business sense of a project, though, the case is less clear. Wikipedia’s definition of a project in relation to project management is “a management environment that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to a specified business case”. On The Apprentice, the projects are so hurried and seemingly, slapdash, that no real management environment is created.
Defining a project manager
A project manager is a professional individual who is ultimately responsible for the success of a project as defined above.
The worry is that people in the real world are doing exactly the same as on the Apprentice, and wrongly defining projects and the role of the project manager when something needs to be done within an organisation and someone is nominated to make it happen. Yes, that person is sure to be skilled in the industry and probably a good people manager. They may even get the project done. But, without
proper project management training, how can they be sure of getting the best results most efficiently?
The first task for a contracted/appointed project manager is to clearly define the project, its aims and expected outcomes. They then work out a plan to achieve those aims, working backwards step-by-step and defining milestones along the way. A project manager delegates after careful consideration of the skills available in the team.
We see little of the crucial planning stages on The Apprentice, thus fuelling the fire from the project management profession…although it’s possible that the PMs do spend more time planning but it’s lost in editing. At the very least, we know their plans rarely stay on track and that they have not put contingencies in place for when things go wrong.
We’ve written lots more on the kind of skills a project manager needs to have, and the tasks they need to undertake, in our post on what makes a good project manager.
The Apprentice and Project Management
Whilst the Apprentice weekly tasks can only be loosely described as projects, the whole series could be. A candidate hoping to win should define this as their ultimate goal and work out what steps they need to get there. Most importantly, they’ll need strong PM skills to be able to adapt their plan to the individual challenges they face each week, making sure they display the strengths that Lord Sugar is looking for.
Someone doesn’t become a project manager because they are given the title. You can only become a true project manager through training, experience and by recognising the right tasks as projects.
Similar posts you may like:
- Adapting PRINCE2
- What to look for in a Project Manager
- Project Management Means People Management
- PRINCE2 Project Initiation Document Template
- PRINCE2 Methodology & PRINCE2 Structure