Assessment of the Capability Review programme: forty-fifth report of session 2008-09, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence

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Stationery Office, Sep 15, 2009 - Business & Economics - 36 pages
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In 2005, the Cabinet Secretary launched a programme of two-yearly Capability Reviews. They involve published external assessments of departments with the aim of achieving a major improvement in civil service capability. The programme is a significant step forward in how government departments are assessed. To have publicly available commentary, sometimes critical, of important aspects of departments' capability is an initiative of great value, with real potential as a driver for improvement. The first-round reviews, in 2006-07, showed that departments had a long way to go but the 11 departments that have had second-round reviews have achieved significantly higher assessments. The link between Capability Review scores and delivery performance is not clear because assessments are based largely on qualitative and subjective evidence. But it will be essential for there to be more objective and quantified metrics to link assessments to demonstrable improvements in performance. It will also be necessary to introduce a strong element of external benchmarking to drive greater improvement. The second-round Capability Reviews show that staff confidence in senior management is improving but is still too poor. Alongside the need for further improvements to senior leadership, Capability Reviews do not yet give sufficient attention to middle management, front-line staff and departments' delivery partners and agencies. And unlike local government assessment, which includes political leadership, Capability Reviews do not consider how well Ministers and senior management work together to achieve desired outcomes. Departments need much more robust staff performance management, better insight into their customers' needs and preferences and greater use of innovation.

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