Steve Fenton

Change your process at regular intervals

The Apprentice (UK). It started out as a show that offered the prize of a job working for Sir (now Lord) Alan Sugar. If you trust in the magic of television, you’ll believe that a series of tasks were devised to test the many skills needed to take on a job in one of the chief’s many eponymous companies. If you stretched your imagination you could, perhaps, map the light-comedy entertainment back to skills such as negotiation, forecasting, decision-making, leadership, and hell-camp management shouting. The process was, fictionally, designed as a twelve-installment interview for a real job. Well, a job.

So, why the disdainful introduction to the dog-eat-dog showdown that is The Apprentice? Because we have a great example of an organisation that is following a process way-way-way beyond the point at which it became entirely irrelevant. Seriously. Let’s just take another look into the series some 14 years after it began.

The format of The Apprentice is hardly changed from the original format. Sure, there’s a bigger budget. Perhaps things are even more over-the-top. The essence, though, is that the candidates trudge through a bunch of tasks to prove themselves capable of taking on a job for Lord Sugar… except you’re not competing for a job at Amstrad any more; Stella English was the last person to actually be “hired” in Series 6, back in 2010. These days, you are competing to convince the guv’nor to throw in some cash in order to bag himself 50% of your business. It’s like Dragon’s Den, but without the negotiation (and with The Dragon taking a slice that would make more of the Dragon investors say something such as “I’m worried that there’s not enough left in it for you, so you won’t be motivated to make this a success!”)

And herein lies the problem.

Despite the goal being fantastically different (looking for an employee, vs looking for an entrepreneur to invest in), the process, when you peel back the glitz, is largely the same. Either you look for employees in just the same way you would look for an entrepreneur… or the process should have been revised a long time ago.

Of course, the answer is that the process should be drastically different. It’s obvious that the tasks should be adapted to uncover the traits you value in someone who will be founding and growing a business. You don’t select someone to be a founder in the same way you find a Project Director for your new Health and Beauty division. That would be insane.

And yet, if you take a glance around your organisation, you’ll see that the processes that are in place are similarly mismatched to your current goals. The process should be changed at regular intervals. You should reflect on how the process could be more effective and tune it accordingly.

Written by Steve Fenton on