Orchestrating Major Projects: A programme for Director Generals

Case study

Around £500bn of taxpayers’ money is committed by the Government to the 150-200 projects in its Major Projects Portfolio.

The Major Projects Leadership Academy was set up to tackle the challenges of cost, scale and the ambitious timescales for these projects. It seeks to achieve this by developing the capabilities of senior responsible owners and project directors delivering complex and often critical undertakings.

Following the launch of the academy, we designed the Orchestrating Major Projects programme primarily for Director Generals and Permanent Secretaries. 

Benefits of the programme

Participants benefits from:

  • Reflecting on how public service can be transformed
  • Improving and growing their connections
  • Gaining a better understanding of departments' senior responsible owners and project directors
  • Addressing leadership challenges alongside other senior colleagues
  • Capitalising on the momentum of the Major Projects Leadership Academy

On the programme, we have assembled outstanding project leaders with shared references, competencies and networks who have individually and collectively delivered significant and positive change.

Together, the aim is to reshape the major projects operating environment and enable the delivery of more, successful major projects for the benefit of the Government and, ultimately, UK citizens.

Having worked with the team that has developed the Orchestrating Major Projects programme and, given their track record on programmes for Permanent Secretaries and Ministerial teams, I feel confident in their ability to deliver an informative, engaging and impactful experience and commend this opportunity to you.

Tony Meggs

CEO of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority

Setting up projects to succeed

The programme focuses on the key areas where most improvements could be made in the delivery of major projects.

Projects that hit difficulties are often those that are poorly set up, where delivery expertise is consulted at a late stage, where objectives are too sketchily articulated and accountabilities blurred. A successful project starts well and the programme explores how this can be achieved.

Building in resilience

Major projects can come under tectonic pressure from contextual, political, technological, societal challenges and changes. Building resilience into the structures and governance of a project is critical to its success. On this programme, participants reflect on best practice in building resilience both from within and outside government.

Shaping the operating environment

Leading in government often requires careful navigation between conflicting needs or opposing forces, and never more so than in shaping the project delivery environment. Director Generals can be faced with:

  • Completing their constitutional responsibilities while enabling the full potential of others
  • Delivering a rigid programme while accommodating the need for flex and agility
  • Being accounting officer and servant of the department simultaneously 
  • Serving ministers and citizens
  • Responding to the sway of the political agenda while leading for the long term
  • Safeguarding process adherence while championing a learning organisation
  • Ensuring cost saving while pushing for innovation.

All require a particular kind of approach and leadership, which are explored in practical ways throughout the programme.

Leadership capabilities for major projects

Policy formation and major project delivery require a broad and interlinked set of skills. Those charged with shaping the environment need a developed understanding of those capabilities. Major projects require a developed instinct for risk and the project teams depend on Director Generals to bring their experience, hold the burden of uncertainty throughout delivery, provide direction, motivation and support, and empower the team.

The leadership aspect of creating a successful environment for major project delivery forms a key portion of the programme.

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