London

3rd Floor, Dragon Court, 27-29 Macklin Street, London, WC2B 5LX

0203 855 4450

Manchester

The Exchange, 3 New York Street, Manchester, M1 4HN

0203 855 4450
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Critical Friend at DEFRA

A Critical Friend is an individual or organisation that is trusted to speak difficult truths and see solutions that might otherwise be overlooked. The concept is especially useful where complexity is high, and where political or personal agendas, or workplace culture might be colouring how issues are viewed.

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Client stories

The Project

The UK’s exit from the EU required DEFRA to deliver complex projects simultaneously across the breadth of sectors. This was an unprecedented challenge and required employees to operate outside their expertise.

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The Approach

We engaged with senior stakeholders at DEFRA to help build an overview of the situation, and developed a Work Package to address the challenges. The main challenges were: a need to quickly increase the breadth and depth of PPM competencies, and to continuously improve project delivery capability. The proposed Work Package involved us standing up a team of Delivery Advisors (DAs) and Project Management Business Partners (BPs) to work alongside and advise DEFRA teams, communicating directly with senior directors and ministers including the Secretary of State. Through these interactions, Reed Professional Services would act as a Critical Friend to DEFRA, able
to speak difficult truths and to use our collective experience to seek simple and innovative solutions, indentify and pull drifting projects back on track, and to act as a bridge to assure the right delivery at the right time.

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The Outcome

Due to the breadth of sectors the DAs and BPs were required to work in, we deployed team members with a range of skills and experience including governance, assurance, reporting, risk, issue and dependency management, and planning, from across a wide range of sectors: Health, MOD, Finance, Public and Private Sector. Additionally, we ensured the team had experience in a range
of project management methodologies – including Prince2, Waterfall, and Agile – enabling them to select and implement, even modify the methodology best suited to each project.

Our project with DEFRA lasted far longer than initially expected. We managed this with no changes to the lineup of DAs and BPs, ensuring continuity of trust, stakeholder relationships and delivery. Work was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of the RPS project team were retained in post due to their ability to remain effective through all manner of challenges, and our position as a Critical Friend.

IR35 worker

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