Understanding the role of SROs in public sector change delivery

The role of SROs & Programme Directors in public sector change delivery


Change across the public sector is becoming more frequent, complex, and critical than ever before. Government departments and public sector bodies must react to this and become more effective at change delivery.


Successful change programmes need to be both sponsored and led well. In the public sector the Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) needs to be passionate, committed and focused on success, and instil this in others. The Programme Director (PD) needs to understand the requirement, lead from the front, and deliver the change to time and cost.


So, what makes effective SROs and PDs and how can they ensure they perform their respective roles to deliver change successfully? In our experience, there are five key areas to focus on.



Creating a clear shared vision


With so much changing, it can be confusing to see where any initiative fits in. Traditional public sector levers such as spending reviews, policy change and budgets sit alongside macro-level issues affecting all parts of our economy and country including the cost-of-living crisis, the recovery from the COVID pandemic and the drive for Climate Change.


Whilst the reasons for change are obvious on one level, SROs need to distil this landscape quickly and succinctly, and articulate a compelling story for their organisation that inspires their colleagues and secures the commitment of their peers. Programme Directors need to translate this vision in a clear plan and engage the programme team in how their respective roles will help to deliver the vision.



Building business ownership


The public sector landscape is complex, with multiple government departments, central and local organisations responsible for parts of the end-to-end delivery of services and numerous non-departmental government bodies involved in differing capacities.


SROs need to navigate the ‘corridors of Whitehall and beyond’ and build a sense of ownership for the delivery of benefits from their change programmes. Programme Directors need to work ‘on the ground’ with departments involved in the change programme and ensure that all they are ready and ‘pulling’ for the change.



Safeguarding the vision


Governance requirements within the public sector are plentiful. Whether at the level of the GMPP (Government’s Major Projects Portfolio) and independent assurance from the IPA (Infrastructure and Projects Authority) or the various boards and committees required on individual programmes, it is an inherent part of delivering change in the sector.


SROs need to engage with the necessary government bodies and ensure the right people are involved with the programme governance to make informed, timely decisions. Programme Directors need to ensure they involve key stakeholders from all departments and organisations from the start and keep them engaged and committed throughout delivery.



Supporting solution delivery


Public sector change programmes will have a delivery organisation which will almost always involve multiple delivery partners including management consultancies, software providers, systems integrators, and many others.


SROs need to ensure that they provide the necessary support and challenge to this delivery organisation and help to remove blockers and barriers where they exist. Programme Directors need to lead this delivery organisation focusing on key milestones and outcomes and driving the programme at pace.



Leading the way


Both SROs and PDs will already be senior leaders within the public sector. They hold positions of power with their ‘day job’ that they have in their department. SROs and PDs need to use this leadership experience and translate it into what is needed for the change – creating a sense of excitement, setting clear expectations with everyone, and putting in place an environment where everyone can succeed.


SROs and PDs, like their private sector ‘sponsor’ counterparts, are central to the delivering change successfully within their departments and across public sector organisations.



Do you need change expertise?


At Project One, we help and support our public sector customers to shape, mobilise and deliver their most critical change programmes. Our team of change experts have over 15 years of experience and work with senior leaders in their SRO and Programme Director roles to provide independent change leadership support through every step of their change journey.


If you would like to discuss your specific challenges and our public sector experience, please get in touch with Steve.calder@projectone.com

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