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Capability Review Programme

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Capability Review Programme

Summary Description: The principal centrally-driven management improvement tool of the period 2005-2011, now subsumed within the Civil Service Reform plan (see launched in June, 2012.

Main Points: Launched in 2005, the Capability Review Programme is part of the wider Civil Service reform agenda and is designed to lead to a Civil Service which is better at delivering public services. The aims of the reviews are to:

  • improve the capability of the Civil Service to meet today’s delivery objectives and be ready for the challenges of tomorrow
  • assure the public and ministers that the Civil Service leadership is equipped to develop and deliver departmental strategies and
  • help departments act on long-term key development areas and therefore provide assurance on future delivery.

The reviews provide an assessment of capability for departments against a model of capability (illustrated below) and identify the department’s progress and next steps. Phase 1 and phase 2 Reviews were carried out by a team of external reviewers. Phase 3 “Capability Action Plan” Reviews are led by a team assembled specifically by the department under review.

The ten Elements of the Capability Review are listed below.

L1 Set Direction

  • Do you have and communicate a clear, compelling and coherent vision for the future of the organisation?
  • Does the Board work effectively in a corporate culture of teamwork, including working across internal boundaries and making effective use of non-executive directors?
  • Does the Board take tough decisions, see them through and show commitment to continuous improvement of delivery outcomes?
  • Does the Board lead and manage change effectively, addressing and overcoming resistance when it occurs?

L2 Ignite passion, pace and drive

  • Do you create and sustain a unifying culture and set of values and behaviours which promote energy, enthusiasm and pride in the organisation and its vision?
  • Are the leadership visible, outward looking role models communicating effectively and inspiring the respect, trust, loyalty and confidence of staff and stakeholders?
  • Do you display integrity, confidence and self-awareness in your engagement with staff and stakeholders, actively encouraging, listening to and acting on feedback?
  • Do you display passion about achieving ambitious results for customers, focussing on impact and outcomes, celebrating achievement and challenging the organisation to improve?

L3 Develop people

  • Do you have people with the right skills and leadership across the organisation to deliver your vision and strategy? Do you demonstrate commitment to diversity and equality?
  • Do you manage individuals’ performance transparently and consistently, rewarding good performance and tackling poor performance? Are individuals’ performance objectives aligned with those of the organisation?
  • Do you identify and nurture leadership and management talent in individuals and teams to get the best from everyone? How do you plan effectively for succession in key posts?
  • Do you plan to fill key capability gaps in the organisation and in the delivery system?

S1 Set strategy and focus on outcomes

  • Do you have a clear, coherent and achievable strategy with a single, overarching set of challenging outcomes, aims, objectives and success measures?
  • Is your strategy clear what success looks like and focused on improving the overall quality of life for customers and benefiting the nation?
  • Do you keep the strategy up to date, seizing opportunities when circumstances change?
  • How do you work with your political leadership to develop strategy and ensure appropriate trade offs between priority outcomes?

S2 Base choices on evidence and customer insight

  • Are your policies and programmes customer focused and developed with customer involvement and insight from the earliest stage? Do you understand and respond to your customers’ needs and opinions?
  • Do you ensure that your vision and strategy are informed by sound use of timely evidence and analysis?
  • Do you identify future trends, plan for them and choose among the range of options available?
  • Do you evaluate and measure outcomes and ensure that lessons learned are fed back through the strategy process?

S3 Collaborate and build common purpose

  • Do you work with others in government and beyond to develop strategy and policy collectively to address cross-cutting issues?
  • Do you involve partners and stakeholders from the earliest stages of policy development and learn from their experience?
  • Do you ensure your department’s strategies and policies are consistent with those of other departments?
  • Do you develop and generate common ownership of the strategy with your political leadership, the board, the organisation, delivery partners and customers?

D1 Innovate and improve delivery

  • Do you have the structures, people capacity and enabling systems required to support appropriate innovation and manage it effectively?
  • Do leaders empower and incentivise the organisation and its partners to innovate and learn from each other, and the front line, to improve delivery?
  • Is innovation explicitly linked to core business, underpinned by a coherent innovation strategy and an effective approach towards risk management?
  • Do you evaluate the success and added value of innovation, using the results to make resource prioritisation decisions and inform future innovation?

D2 Plan, resource and prioritise

  • Do your business planning processes effectively prioritise and sequence deliverables to focus on delivery of your strategic outcomes, and do you make tough decisions on trade-offs between priority outcomes when appropriate?
  • Are your delivery plans robust, consistent and aligned with the strategy? Taken together will they effectively deliver all of your strategic outcomes?
  • Do you maintain effective control of the organisation’s resources? Do your delivery plans include key drivers of cost, with financial implications clearly considered and suitable levels of financial flexibility within the organisation?
  • Are your delivery plans and programmes effectively managed and regularly reviewed?

D3 Develop clear roles, responsibilities and delivery models

  • Do you have clear and well understood delivery models which will deliver your strategic outcomes across boundaries?
  • Do you identify and agree roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for delivery within those models including arm’s length bodies? Are these well understood and supported by appropriate rewards, incentives and governance arrangements?
  • Do you engage, align and enthuse partners in other departments and across the delivery model to work together to deliver? Is there shared commitment among them to remove obstacles to effective joint working?
  • Do you ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of your delivery agents?

D4 Manage performance and value for money

  • Are you delivering on the priorities set out in your strategy and business plan?
  • Does the need to ensure efficiency and value for money underpin everything that you do?
  • Do you drive performance and strive for excellence across the organisation and delivery system in pursuit of your strategic outcomes?
  • Do you have high-quality, timely and well understood performance information, supported by analytical capability, which allows you to track and manage performance and risk across the delivery system? Do you take action when you are not meeting (or are not on track to meet) all of your key delivery objectives?

Commentary: The UK's Capability Review Programme and the Civil Service reform intiative is one of the most dramatic change initiatives currently underway in OECD countries. It is a very broad initiative, intending to cover most of the management functions of the UK government. This means that the Capability Review Programme could be relevant to all the public management subjects in the Government Functions domain.

Source: At, (accessed 26 January 2013).

Page Created By: Ian Clark on 26 January 2013. The content presented on this page, except for that in the Commentary, is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases. This material does not necessarily reflect the official view of the publishing organization. 


 Subjects addressed in this Practice Example

  Accountability, Oversight and Audit
  Human Resources Management
  Implementation Strategy and Design
  Collaboration and Leadership
  Public Management and Process

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