If only they'd read the guide

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Members of the APM Governance SIG recently held at workshop to assess the performance of the governance and leadership of the Universal Credit programme to date.

Using the well established Directing Change Guide as a baseline we put the Government’s ambitious and complex societal transformation programme (not IT project) under the microscope.

This massive programme has spent over £475m, but has only enrolled 2,500 claimants (against the total 17m people to be covered by the scheme by a deadline of 2017).

The main findings were that the objectives were ambitious in the extreme, and that governance, leadership capability and behaviours have been unacceptably poor. Good governance is not only about authority, process and structure – it is essentially about behaviour of people.

The business case has not been underpinned by a clear vision, end state and intermediate state blueprints, or an implementation strategy that was based upon realism. Therefore a poor baseline existed against which to track performance.

The leadership role for the programme has been unclear: sitting uncomfortably between the minister (held politically accountable), the permanent secretary (held accountable for value for money) and the senior responsible owner (SRO) – the key (sponsor) role – held accountable for a successful outcome and benefits delivery. Due to a mix of circumstances and poor performance, this SRO role has been held by no fewer than six people in the last 12 months. Continuity of the SRO (sponsor) role is one key success factor for good governance.

The culture did not support open and transparent communication leading the MPA to describe it as a “fortress mentality”. The findings from assurance reviews were not implemented in a robust manner.

Consensus was reached from the workshop that monitoring and control needed to be improved with a framework for people management and programme/project approach that is based on capability and capacity. It was initially claimed that an agile approach was being used for delivery, but little experience or capability existed to either deliver or govern. The actuality has been an attempt at a ‘big bang’ transformation that has failed to embed rather than an incremental build.

The overall conclusion and recommendation was that following the APM Governance SIG Directing Change Guide would have avoided many of the issues – and still might going forward if adopted.

To read the full report from the Governance SIG workshop click here.

The September 2013 Executive Summary NAO Report can be viewed here

More articles on Universal Credit


Blog written by Amerjit Walia and Brian Wernham of the APM Governance SIG

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Posted by Amerjit Walia on 13th Mar 2014

About the Author
A seasoned fellow project management practitioner that is fully active within APM through Orbitus Consulting and Learning. With a strong background in HR Project Management and Global Talent Management, I believe people are at the centre of all project activity driven by strong project teams. I am an active member of the Governance SIG. Currently working as an Associate with the Hay Group and delivering the Fromtline Leadership programme via the NHS Leadership Academy. I am also active Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and Vice Chair of SW London Branch and Chair of the Independent Consultants Forum.

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