Government launches project leadership programme

The government has launched a training programme to improve the skills of civil servants working on significant government projects.


The government has launched a training programme to improve the skills of civil servants working on significant government projects.

The programme, which will start with a pilot for 50 participants in October, will eventually train 300 individuals every year.

It is separate from, but complements, the 'Major Projects Leadership Academy' (MPLA), launched in 2012 for senior civil servants working on the biggest 200 projects across government.

The new programme will provide a combination of academic teaching and ‘hands-on’ learning and cover topics such as the common causes of project failure.

The government hopes that it will ‘significantly improve the quality of management among the leaders of critical projects’ and facilitate knowledge-sharing across Whitehall.

John Manzoni, the Major Project Authority’s chief executive, said: “Government manages and delivers some of the most transformative projects in the country. To deliver these efficiently and effectively for taxpayers, it’s vital that we continue to build the skills of our project leaders.

“The MPLA has already made significant progress in this regard and now we want to progress this to the next level of project leaders. This is also part of our work to create a career path for staff who work in project delivery across government so that we build our leadership capability and continue to attract the best talent.”

The MPA, a unit set up in 2011 which operates as a partnership between the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, will manage the new programme.

The authority oversees and evaluates Whitehall departments’ major projects, roughly half of which are led by or significantly involve ICT. It releases annual reports on the progress of significant government projects. Its latest report, in May, was criticised for failing to include its assessment of the troubled welfare reform project Universal Credit.

The government is planning to appoint a private sector supplier to run the new course in the long term. Further details on its requirements will be included in a prior information notice due to be published later this month and a ‘meet the buyer’ day has been planned for early October.

Existing training scheme for more senior staff

Civil servants who are more senior, working on major projects across government, will continue to attend the existing training programme at the MPLA.

The projects these civil servants work on could include Universal Credit, border systems, the National Crime Agency, the national cyber security programme or major NHS initiatives.

The MPA expects the top 350 projects leaders in Whitehall to be enrolled on the MPLA programme by the end of this year.

The programme includes a rigorous assessment process with feedback at the start and the end, and a final panel with the department’s permanent secretary, a director from Oxford University and the MPA’s chief executive John Manzoni, the MPA explained.  

If civil servants fail the assessment, they will no longer lead a major project.