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Help - I'm a project manager, get me out of this mess!

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You have to feel sorry for those poor Apprentices trying their hardest to be project managers under the scrutiny of Lord Sugar and all for the benefit of entertaining the viewing public. Whatever you may think about their titles bringing the reputation of professional project management into disrepute, actually they represent a very large proportion of the UK workforce – project managers in name only -  no experience, no skills, no-one to turn to for help in their hour of need.

Professionals of APM – now is your time to do what professionals should – share your learning born of experience at the real coalface with those in need. So, what hints and tips, what gems of knowledge would you impart to this hapless group?

With your help, APM will compile a top ten tips for would-be project managers which we’ll send to the BBC in the hope that someone will pass them on to those who survive this week’s cull!


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  1. Andrew Egerton
    Andrew Egerton 16 December 2010, 12:29 PM

    What would be good although may not make good TV is a head-to-head between the apprentices and a control group of competent PMs both doing the same task. This would (hopefully) show the benefits of applying PM techniques to a problem.Although I suspect a group of competent PMs may not be successful for all sorts of other reasons

  2. Owain Wilson
    Owain Wilson 12 November 2010, 09:01 AM

    A week by week account of the show from a project management perspective is given by the Lazy Project Manager, which offers some useful advice: 

  3. Russel Jamieson
    Russel Jamieson 05 November 2010, 11:23 AM

    For me the most important ingredients of a project are its PEOPLE. Too often timelines are imposed when they are not actually required to be. Even regulators can be challenged! Timelines are drawn up with all good intentions based upon 'hoped for' resourcing, both line managed and matrix, but inevitably changes are made with other 'priority' work often needing your key resources just when you need them.So, should we bother about having a full timeline or should we work in an agile manner and deliver little and often? That way, we fail fast and in regular agreement with the client can restructure and rebuild into a glorious delivery which is actually what the client ultimately wants even though it probably looks nothing like what they originally scoped!Only with focused and dedicated project (programme or portfolio) PEOPLE can great results be obtained - not the (hilarious) bunch of 'm*ppets' on The Apprentice who actually want TV stardom more than they want a 100k job with Lord Sugar. Mind you, I wish them all the best and they can rest assured that this Fellow of the APM will not be challenging them for the role - phew!!!

  4. Paul Smith
    Paul Smith 04 November 2010, 01:33 PM

    At the risk of being pedantic, you are demoting the now further elevated Lord Sugar. I know "Suralan" rolls off the tongue, but I'd hate for the notably irascible Lord to take you and APM to task about using his correct title and appropriately recognising his ennoblement.

  5. Owain Wilson
    Owain Wilson 04 November 2010, 03:04 PM

    Thanks PVSmith, I've made the change before Lord Sugar fires us!

  6. Andy Jordan
    Andy Jordan 21 October 2010, 11:18 AM

    Week 3 - Cringe-worthy ..arghAs well as Listening and proper planning, how about just good old fashioned Common-Sense? I just cringed when Shibby spat his dummy out in front of the clients. It shouldn't take a genius to realise that stressing out with your team in front of the client is not professional.oh blimey....when Melissa didn't walk into the clients meeting with costings and therefore had to work it out...under pressure with no backup from the team! I hope she learnt a lesson there.I can't help think a lack of realism in the actions of Shibby due to actually turning up at the client with only 16 out of the 1000 products promised and trying to laugh it off. A proactive attitude would have said "it's 1am, we can't do this, I'll ring and give advance notice so the client can apply a contingency plan". It was as though he knew it wasn't his firm and he had nothing to loose apart from Lord Alan's wrath - totally wrong attitude. I hope our own personal survival in projects ensures we take a much more responsible and active role.I'd love to see a PMI/APM/PRINCE2 PM take part in a future show....just to see if our outsider views can be ratified and put to the test in front of the camera and in an extremely high pressured environment!

  7. Andrew Nichols
    Andrew Nichols 20 October 2010, 03:49 PM

    Having watched the program, and thoroughly enjoyed the slanging matches that ensue, I would think they should look at their communication skills.What is the most important part of communication? They all fail at step 1 - TO LISTEN!!They don't listen to the brief, they don't listen to their colleagues, they don't listen to the experts in the area they are working...... need I go on?Andy

  8. Andy Jordan
    Andy Jordan 15 October 2010, 05:33 PM

    Interesting Jon - unfortunately they'd be lucky to get any experts together. I get the feeling that although they have had the roles and the status titles I wonder how many were actually pretty darn good at their job? How can the agression and arogance in the first week be seen as the right way to project manage - especially when you are faced with everyone who wants to make their mark and be top dog?The art of communication and facilitation should be the first order of the day - how many times have we seen meetings (ie Week two) turn into a shouting match because the "project manager" doesn't bring out the ideas of everyone and allows everyone else to discuss the risks etc and agree to 'reject' consensually?BASICS - get the requirements/market audience right first time.Andy

  9. Matt Whyndham
    Matt Whyndham 14 October 2010, 10:27 AM

    Don't equate gameshows (even high class ones, Surrallan) with the real world. There's an Action imperative that infects the teams (and the format, actually).  Whereas in the real world, there would be, or should be, sufficient time to prepare Resources, Skills and Behaviours before expending energy, that's simply abandoned in this show.  Even 20 minutes thinking would be beneficial, but no, they crack on with the task.

  10. Andrew Egerton
    Andrew Egerton 13 October 2010, 11:28 PM

    Oh well there are so many tips that could have been useful for this weeks rabble. However I'd say in that situation you should instantly stamp your authority on the project show them who's PM but then step back and allow the team/solution to evolve stepping in only when needed to prevent derailing or to hasten the process.Andrew