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Organisational design to support rapid growth in a UK Government department

SHARE PROJECT

The Roads, Places and Environment (RPE) Group is a 1000-person group within the UK Department for Transport (DfT), which is responsible for planning and investing in UK’s transport and infrastructure.

A challenge caused by rapid growth

The RPE Group had grown rapidly as it took on responsibility for government priorities such as decarbonisation and Levelling Up. Over 12 months the group had grown by 45 per cent to around 1,000 FTE, increasing directorate sizes and control spans to challenging levels, and causing tensions where responsibilities were not clearly demarcated. RPE engaged Nous to help it create a more sustainable organisational structure for the future.

A blended team brought together insider insight and external expertise

It was a really positive experience working with Nous. They felt fully part of the team and went out of their way to get to know us and understand our organisation, which was key to making their work for us a success.

Deputy Director and Project Lead at the Department for Transport, UK

Nous led RPE through a best-practice six-step organisation design process to determine the right structure for the group. Working closely together we:

  1. determined drivers of change and strategic direction
  2. mapped current and future functions
  3. defined design criteria
  4. identified a range of options
  5. assessed our identified options against the design criteria
  6. tested and refined the preferred option.

We worked iteratively with senior department stakeholders to define, test and improve the design at each stage. This collaborative approach ensured that key figures in the department had ownership of the final design outcomes.

Given the broad and evolving nature of government priorities and emphasis in transport and environment policy, it was critical to define the group’s current strategic priorities in a condensed format. We helped RPE to concretise this in a strategy on a page as part of the project’s first step. This concise document was foundational for the later design work.

A strategically structured group will be effective, sustainable and responsive

The final design, which was signed off for phased implementation, structured the RPE Group around key policy areas and strategic priorities, improved control spans to increase senior bandwidth, and consolidated functions that were cross-cutting and better situated elsewhere. This will position the department to continue working effectively and respond to future demands.

What you can learn from RPE

  • To enable effective future performance it’s important to identify that growth puts strain on organisational structures.
  • Expert process and organisational design rigour enables internal stakeholders to make the best decisions.
  • An external perspective on organisational structure can challenge thinking and help focus on what matters most to an organisation.
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