Background to the report

As at March 2022, government expected to spend £678 billion across its 235 largest, most innovative and riskiest programmes. This includes strategically significant programmes to build railways, schools and IT systems and transform public services. Many of these programmes are complex and we often see government bodies needing to improve how they are managed.

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As these programmes often take years, changes in the external environment, such as movements in inflation rates, may affect the programme and create further complexities. These factors, whether internal or external, may mean a programme can no longer achieve its intended outcomes, or it is too costly to do so. In these cases, a programme reset may be needed.

We have audited many of the largest and most challenging government programmes. In some cases we have reported multiple times on the same programme at different stages, including before and after a reset.

Scope of the report

This report uses our experience of auditing programmes to draw together insights to help decision-makers determine whether they should reset a programme and how to increase the chances of a reset succeeding. We have identified eight key insights and, for each, provided those involved, especially senior decision-makers, with examples and questions to ask.