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Labour’s government: civil service redesign


Labour’s government: civil service redesign

Mission-led government: impacts on Public Sector – part 2: organisation design


In Part 1 of our series exploring mission-led government, we examined how a cross-government Strategy Management Office (SMO) could support the Civil Service with the effective delivery of missions. In Part 2, we look at the broader implications of mission-led government for Civil Service organisation design. Parts 1 and 3 can be found below:


Reading time: 4 minutes

Background & Context 

A new government creates an opportunity to reconsider how the Civil Service operates, both holistically and at departmental level. The anticipated move to a mission-focused government will have implications for departmental objectives and pace is going to matter. The new government is determined to show real progress in the first 100 days and newly appointed ministers are pushing civil servants to make a raft of immediate policy changes. This means that the Civil Service will need to pivot quickly towards a mission-led approach, and this will require increased inter-department collaboration, and a rapid realignment of priorities.

However, the government’s commitment to similar fiscal rules to the previous administration means that we should not be expecting an immediate rush of additional funding to support this.

Instead, an upcoming spending review will likely reprioritise public spending, re-aligning it across departments in support of the government’s missions. Departments wishing to secure a better funding allocation will need to align their spending with the priorities set out by No 10.

This will have implications for departments, which will need to reprioritise their strategic objectives, and therefore reassess how they can quickly adjust their operating model, service delivery, and workforce models accordingly. To get ahead, departments should review whether their current organisation is rightsized and ready to meet the challenges arising from the change in administration and ensure that they have the right capabilities in place to deliver impact for the future.


What steps do departments need to take? 

We recommend that departments review their current maturity and as-is operating models to ensure their capability to respond to future challenges.

Step 1: Understand their current organisation better   

It is crucial to invest time in understanding the current organisation and its overall effectiveness today. This gives departments the ability to gauge the level of change required in moving from the current state to any potential future state.

Information to be analysed should include the size, shape and cost of the department, its current capabilities across all professions, and key areas of organisational health such as culture, behaviours, and technology.

In reviewing organisational people data, the following should be considered:

  • Managerial spans-of-control: Small spans can introduce additional time spent on unnecessary activity and duplication of work between managers and their direct reports.
  • Organisational layers: Too many layers and the flow of information within the department both upwards and downwards becomes more complicated and challenging.
  • Compression: Same-grade reporting drives up costs and reduces overall productivity and organisational effectiveness.
  • Career pathways: Ensuring clear and effective career pathways can support focus on priority projects, drive engagement, and limit attrition.

Step 2: Explore their operating model

The completion of activity is the fundamental driver of resource allocation and cost within departments. Understanding activities and their interdependencies provides the foundation of the ‘as-is’ operating model and creates a holistic view of the department.

Departments should therefore identify the activity undertaken across all directorates and review what may need to stop, start, or continue in the future to meet the needs of reprioritised budgets or new objectives in a mission-led context.

Activities should then be built out into a visual operating model, which can help illustrate to stakeholders the critical activity undertaken in the department and its key interfaces. This can play a role in developing a narrative to drive engagement about any organisational change that may be required.

Step 3: Identify options for the future

The last step focuses on identifying options for the future, testing different scenarios to explore what the future operating model should look like and how it can accurately represent the critical activity and the inter-departmental interfaces required to deliver upon the new missions. These scenarios are best posed as a series of targeted, open-ended questions, such as:

  • What would happen if we had no more than five layers of management in the department?
  • What would happen if we set a minimum managerial span of control of four?
  • What would happen if we adopted a new, Agile model to support mission delivery?
  • What capabilities would we need to achieve this objective?
  • How do we ensure we “bring the outside in” and leverage insights and learnings from within and outside the Civil Service?

To help understand the impact of potential scenarios, we recommend testing them against a fictional, model government department, which would provide an opportunity to see the potential impact of changes without being constrained by the department’s current operating model. Exploring these scenarios interactively with employees from across the department can help build a broad sense of ownership over the future direction required, reinforcing buy-in across the stakeholder base.

How could Q5 help?

Q5 has extensive expertise of supporting government departments, the wider public sector, and private sector organisations in the UK and internationally improve their organisational health. Our tried and tested methodologies break down the components of healthy organisations and help organisations understand their strengths and opportunity areas simply and clearly. We transform organisations to meet their future challenges and support them to achieve a long-term legacy of higher capability through extensive knowledge transfer from our team to yours.

We also bring bespoke digital platforms that underpin effective organisation design, such as our OrgMaps platform, which builds dynamic models of organisations, providing clear visual representations of their current shape, size, and cost. OrgMaps can also provide you with high-quality analysis on spans and layers, grade distribution, and activity volumetrics supporting your organisation design journey. Finally, OrgMaps can support leaders to test different scenarios and hypotheses to understand the impact of different options for your future organisation design.

Our teams bring deep sectoral expertise, capability in organisation design and development, change and transformation, and analytics, coupled with a real drive to deliver the best for our clients. If you would like to know more, please contact

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