In our report Centre Forward; Effective Support for the Prime Minister at the Centre of Government,  we noted that successive prime ministers had used “special units” with different degrees of success to drive their priorities and challenge Whitehall’s business as usual – but that there was no process in place for capturing the lessons on when and how to set up such units, nor how to make them work. 

In our report, The Special Ones, we draw on the experiences of those who have run and worked in special units to distil seven pieces of advice on how to make a special unit work. Those tips are:

  • Tip 1: Have effective support from Number 10
  • Tip 2: Be clear upfront about your conditions for accepting the appointment
  • Tip 3: Manage your own recruitment
  • Tip 4: Build credibility and establish your expertise – and have a strategy for dealing with departments
  • Tip 5: Plan well – have a clear timetable and plan implementation into your work
  • Tip 6: Ensure appropriate governance – but don’t get bogged down in it
  • Tip 7: Plan your legacy.