For the group assignment we have chosen the British version of The Apprentice. More precisely the fifth episode of the fifth season. This episode features two teams with the names Ignite and Empire. We focused on team Ignite. The aim of the whole series is to become an apprentice of Sir Alan Sugar, who is one of Britain’s most successful businessmen.
In this episode the teams are given the task to come up with an advertisement campaign for a new breakfast cereal, which includes creating a name for the cereal, designing a box and filming a TV spot. Both teams are given the same resources, which include access to one of the biggest British advertisement companies. The team Ignite is composed of three female members and three male members. Moreover the team members are all about the same age, which is approximately 26-36 years. All members have a different background and all have different levels of experience in a particular field of business. The element which unites the team is the common goal of getting the apprentice job.
2.)The first impression of team Ignite was contrasting. The majority of our group members had a bad first impression of the team, mainly based on the fact there was already a lot of conflict at the beginning. Some of our team member interpreted those difficulties team Ignite as warm-up difficulties and argued that after the settling-in the team would do fine.
The first impression of the team members were similar. We unanimously thought that Kimberly, was a rather weak group leader, who was unable to prevent Phillip from pressuring the other team members to accept his idea. Phillip was a very dominant figure of the group, who basically bullied everyone until they accepted his ideas. Another team member worth mentioning is Lorraine who tries to revolt against Phillip but fails to do so and rather engages in personal conflict with Phillip. The other team members of team Ignite are unable to bring in new ideas because of the prevailing conflict between Kimberly, Phillip and Lorraine.
The goal of the team is to win the competition in order to avoid the elimination of a member. In other words this means creating a good advertisement campaign.
Having a closer look at the different motivations we had a few contrasting opinions concerning the motivation of Phillip:
Some members of our group argued that Phillip’s main motivation was entirely based on his overwhelming self-confidence. His main object is to get his ideas across and not really finding the best solution. On the other hand, it has been argued that he actually believes that his ideas are the best and hence thinks his acting in the best interest of the team.
In the cases of the other team members we mainly agreed that their main motivation is based on reaching the team objective. However in general the other team members seemed to be lacking motivation compared to for example Lorraine.
This leads us to the question what the members of the group have in common and what makes them a group. In short, the only thing they have in common and what makes them a group is the common aim of winning the competition. In addition to that they have various different skills due to their different backgrounds.
Finally, we will have a closer look at the group interaction:
The group interaction in general in team Ignite is troubled. The extremely direct and pushy communication style of Phillip hindered the project in its crucial development phase. The other team members simply seemed to be afraid of sharing their ideas because of Phillips destructive criticism. Everyone else seemed to have followed the unwritten rule of not „shutting down“ other ideas except Phillip. Kimberly, the project leader, failed to enforce those rules, which would have enabled the team to have a good brainstorming. Moreover she failed to enforce her authority.
3) In forming an initial impression of the group, their first meeting was very important to us. It took place right after they had gotten their task and got together to see the product. This meeting was our first encounter with the members working together as a team, and our first insights into how they work. The first meeting consisted out of a brainstorm session, meant for coming up with a brand name and character for the product they were going to advertise. We got a great look at the individual perspectives and roles within the team, and a good impression of the teamwork. Therefore it was this meeting that was the base for our initial impressions.
4) Within the team, as far as discrimination is concerned, there wasn’t any. The members have known each other for quite some time when the episode takes place and aspects like gender and race make no difference. For example, the team leader is female and not once is this a subject of discussion. It is never mentioned that a male leader might have been a better choice. There might be some prejudice in the team though, although they are not that strong. This is illustrated in the best way by one of the members, Phillip, who in promoting his idea constantly shot down other peoples’ ideas. Without even being willing to listen to other people he classified their ideas as ‘’horrible’’ and so on. This behavior eventually lead to the team deciding on picking Phillips’ idea, because no other options had been properly dealt with.
5) Team Ignite has more weaknesses then strengths. From the start they don’t form a real team. In the beginning every team member can give his or her idea and the team leader says that nobody’s idea gets shot down, which is quite positive. But in practice they don’t listen carefully to each other: the idea of the person who shouts loudest (Phillip) is picked, although not all the team members agree that it’s the best idea and have a totally different view how to carry out the task. This example shows that the team has a lack of communication and understanding. Another weakness of the team is planning. Because they have difficulty in the beginning deciding which idea to pick they are running out of time and they are behind schedule during the whole task. Also, the distribution of the tasks is not equal. The team consist of six people, but all the important tasks are done by two people. It leads to very inefficient working and it also means that the other team members only act on the background and don’t really have a say when important decisions have to be made or important tasks have to be carried out. One of the (rare) strengths of the team is, when they feel they’re one the right track and start to enjoy working for the team, they work well together (listening to each other and adapting each other’s ideas) and all the team members feel equally important. Unfortunately for team Ignite, this only happens once during the filming of the commercial.
6a) The biggest weakness of the team is their communication. From the start it’s not clear what the exact plan is (because it’s not well communicated to the team members or because there is no clear plan?) and who has to do which task. The bad communication also leads to negative feedback and negative body language toward each other, which is very counterproductive. For instance, when the team is practicing the presentation and one team member asks for feedback, the team leader responds very bored and not interested which upsets the team member and is not motivating for the others. This leads to a failed presentation.
o The project manager Kimberly could address Chris and talk to him about his way of communication.
§ He talks about his idea in a too convinced way (“Pants is the future”)
§ Is not open for other ideas (bulldozer)
- Separate persons from their ideas
o The ideas that the team members came up with during the brainstorming could have been posted on a wall, each idea on a different paper because
§ The team members seem to take arguments against their ideas very personal
· Then feel offended, creating a counterproductive atmosphere
§ This method would lead to a more open evaluation of the different ideas
- Plan the timeline at the beginning
o Planning the timeline makes it possible to see what tasks are more time consuming and what tasks are crucial for the success of the project
§ The team should have spent more time on the design of the box
§ Also the decision to let the graphic designer design the box on his own was taken by Kimberly only
· The Project Management should have discussed this important step with the team cause it was not possible anymore to control the box before print
- Split up the team to different tasks
o The Project Manager could have split up the team after the brainstorming more often to individual tasks regarding the little time the team had to accomplish the task
- Emphasizing the importance of the brainstorming
o The brainstorming is the most important part of the process as
§ The success of the team depends on the success of the brainstorming because bad ideas lead to bad performance and good ideas are necessary for a good performance
· The Project Manager could have taken into consideration the hesitation of the team members when it came to the final decision
· The Project Manager could have asked the two team members who didn’t speak up for their opinion, maybe they had something in mind but didn’t say it because the atmosphere wasn’t ideal
o To end the brainstorming when just one of the team members is really convinced of the idea can lead to difficulties
We believe that the best strategy to raise the team’s performance lays in emphasizing the importance of the initial brainstorming. The ideas the team came up with were not good enough. Chris’ idea did not convince the team and had a “lack of logic”, as it was pointed out by the jury in the end of the episode. The other idea the team had during the brainstorming was not even taken into consideration as it did not match the constraint of using one comic character. With just one realizable idea out of 5 people, the brainstorming should not have been ended. It is important to unite the team behind an idea the majority accepts and in the best case some people are even passionate about. Therefore the project manager should have spent extra time here, especially in the given situation, as the success of the following tasks depends on the outcome of the brainstorming.