What are the reviews?

The capability of each Whitehall Department’s communication function is being reviewed to help identify areas of strength and areas where improvement is needed. Some arms-length bodies (ALBs) are also being reviewed.

Each review looks at whether Departments are undertaking the right communication, in the most effective way, using the right skills mix. They take into account the core principles of government communication such as the importance of digital; the need for greater partnership working; and the value of evaluating what we do.

What do you mean by ‘capability’?

Departments are evaluated against model of capability [ppt] developed by a working group of Directors of Communication.

It focuses on:

  • Strategy and planning
  • People and resources
  • Implementation

When are they happening?

The review programme began in early 2012 with the Ministry of Defence, Department for Transport and HM Revenue and Customs. It is scheduled to run until 2013.

Who are the review teams?

Each review team is headed by three independent experts:

  • A current or former Director of Communication
  • Two specialists who have knowledge of either the department’s policy areas, key communication disciplines (for example, marketing, advertising or media management) or a combination of both
  • The review team is supported by the Cabinet Office’s Policy and Capability Team

What is the process?

Relevant documentation is analysed in order to better understand departmental priorities and performance.

Key departmental staff, stakeholders and other external commentators are then interviewed.

Communication teams also take part in a facilitated workshop.

The interviews take place over a three-week period, at the end of which reviewers agree their findings and make recommendations.

What are the outputs of the reviews?

The output of each review is a high-level report and action plan .

The recommendations are designed to help both departments and government communication in general to improve. They focus on roles and communication functions and not on individuals. There is no pass or fail mark, and departments are not ranked against each other.

Key themes from the review programme are also shared across government communication to help improve performance more widely.

A final report is presented to each department’s Permanent Secretary and Director of Communication. The report identifies areas of strength as well as areas for improvement, and includes a series of actions to be undertaken within an agreed time frame. Progress is reviewed after six and 12 months.

Common themes emerging from each review are shared across Government to inform the ongoing professional development programme provided by GCS.

Digital capability review

The final report has been published (November 2013) and Alex Aiken responded to this. Read more about the digital capability review process.

Completed reviews

The following departments have had their reviews completed, and the reports are published here:

Performance against the action plans will be assessed at six and 12 month intervals.