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people and operational management

About people and operational management

Better people and operational management can help to:

  • translate policy into an effective set of services;
  • improve existing services while reducing costs; and
  • make sure the skills, capability and infrastructure exist to deliver them.

Our teams are experts in the challenges facing government in these wide-ranging areas. We have developed a systematic method of assessing how well government manages its operations, and built up in-depth bodies of work on how it manages people, pensions and its large estate.

The challenges include how to manage interdependencies and unintended consequences, and how to meet the full range of service user needs.

They can be especially demanding where policies and services involve multiple government organisations, third-party suppliers or use new technologies.

The reports and guidance on this page contain analysis, case studies and advice for government to deliver better people and operational management.



nurse taking a man's blood pressure

The NHS nursing workforce

The scale of the NHS nursing workforce challenge, and an update on progress to secure the numbers of staff needed.

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Operations and process management

two people in a business meeting

Managing business operations – senior leaders guide

This guide will help senior leaders in government departments to manage and improve the way public services are delivered.

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two pensioners sitting on a bench

The pensions landscape

An overview of the pensions system as a whole, including how pensions work in the UK, reforms since 2010, and systemic challenges and risks.

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Property and estates

front of an office building

Progress on the government estate strategy

What progress has been made in reducing the government’s estate, and how effective is the Government Property Unit.

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Opinion and comment

Efficiency – who’s judging?

Government departments are making plans for achieving substantial efficiency savings by 2024-25, but what might this mean in practice?

Improving services is a team game

We’re sharing our learning to help government think about these challenges and benefit from our insight.

Infographic: £312 billion: central government expected costs for day-to-day running of public services, grants and administration in 2019-20
Infographic: 60%: proportion of the civil service working in operational delivery roles

Our Experts

Alec Steel

Alec has led our operations management specialism since 2010, and supports government thinking across the UK, Europe, USA and Australia. He has authored reports on subjects ranging from major project assurance to the use of consultants, and his assessment of operations management capability across central government in 2015 drew on learning from 32 organisations and 86 operational services.

Before he joined the NAO, Alec worked in several organisation strategy and improvement roles in the public sector.

Scott McMillan

Scott has focused on operations management since 2012. He has supported work across a diverse range of public sector organisations, including the Bank of England, BBC, Cabinet Office, HMRC, Home Office and local government, and is co-author of the NAO’s report on how well government manages its business operations.

Before 2012, Scott worked for eight years on both financial and value-for-money audits.