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Jon Kennard


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News: Leadership training for senior Whitehall staff


Civil servants are to receive mandatory training in leadership and project management skills thanks to the creation of a new £7m Major Projects Leadership Academy.
But the initiative, which will be delivered in partnership with Oxford's Saïd Business School and consultants, Deloitte, is targeted to save the government £10bn per year once it is up-and-running.
The aim of the Academy is build up the skills of senior project leaders across Whitehall so that they can deliver complex projects more effectively in a bid to reduce the government's current over-reliance on expensive external consultancy.
In future “no one will be able to lead a major government project without completing the Academy”, the Cabinet Office said. The UK government is the first in the world to introduce compulsory training for top civil servants in charge of major projects.
The news confirms plans announced last year to reform civil service training at the senior level and ensure that managers and buyers are better trained in order to lessen the risk of wastage in big projects, including ICT ones.
The Academy will draw lessons from other sectors and projects, including the experience of the government’s lead non-executive director, ex-head of BP, Lord Browne of Madingley.

Creating 'world-class' skills

The organisation will be managed by the Cabinet Office Major Projects Authority, which was launched in 2010 to oversee large initiatives and try to ensure that they deliver value for money for taxpayers. The MPA’s current portfolio contains more than 200 projects valued at around £400bn.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude claimed that the body has already saved £147m after having reviewed the government’s biggest projects in order to see where costs could be reduced in practical terms and within contractual constraints or where wasteful projects could be axed altogether.
“We do have impressive expertise in the public sector at the moment, but we want to take a long term view and build this within Whitehall. Crucially, this will relinquish taxpayers from having to foot the bill for external consultancy to deliver the projects and services the country needs,” he said.
The move was an important step in the government's plans to reform the Civil Service and build "world-class" project leadership skills within government, starting with existing leaders, Maude added.
Three primary focuses of the Academy will be to develop major project leadership (50%), technical understanding of major project delivery (25%) and commercial capabilities (25%). The goal is to build up the practical skills necessary to ensure that senior practitioners can deliver very large and complex projects “on time and on budget”.
The Academy's programme will kick off in October 2012 and take two staggered cohorts of approximately 25 people every year, each of whom will have to complete three week-long residential modules as well as tests to assess their competence. Teaching will be “60% practical and 40% theoretical/academic,” the Cabinet Office said. 

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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

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