Action 16 in the Civil Service Reform Plan heralded the end of Capability Reviews and introduced Departmental Improvement Plans (or DIPs) as their successor. The reform plan committed to two departments piloting DIPs before they are rolled out across the board in 2014. Just ahead of the ‘one year on’ review of progress, not two but four prototype DIPs were published and the action was rated ‘green’ in the review. With DCLG, HMRC, FCO and DfID all producing their own DIP, this provides a diverse initial sample to allow an assessment of how they stack up. Capability Reviews, initiated in 2005, were a major breakthrough in opening up the Civil Service to transparent assessment and challenge. The reviews provided an external assessment (in the first two rounds) of the capability of each department based on a common framework and a standardised five point scale from ‘serious concerns’ to ‘strong’. DIPs are intended to be different in two ways. First, they give departments much greater ownership over the process – the assessment and actions are internally driven; they are tailored to each department’s context; and the plan is owned by the departmental board rather than the Cabinet Office. Second, they broaden […]

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