It is a challenging time to be running a government. Political leaders around the world are grappling with sluggish economies, growing inequality and a palpable sense of disenfranchisement among voters. In this demanding environment, one government innovation is proving to be especially popular internationally: delivery units. These units now support heads of government in some 25 countries, with many more operating at local and regional levels. But just how effective are they? 

Although the overall number of delivery units continues to rise, advocates of this innovation should take note of a parallel (and so far unreported) trend of governments becoming disillusioned with their delivery units. Many units that were once announced with great fanfare are quietly being axed. There are also other units that are limping on without the sense of momentum and political backing that they once enjoyed.

If delivery units are to produce results in today’s challenging climate, it is more important than ever to capture lessons on what works.

This report explores:

  • why so many delivery units around the world are closing or struggling
  • the characteristics of failed units and what makes for a successful unit
  • the warning signs that today’s units would do well to heed.

Drawing on interviews with officials who have worked in delivery units, as well as the consultants and sponsor organisations that have assisted them, this report makes six recommendations for running a successful delivery unit:

  1. Make sure there is strong, highly visible political backing.
  2. Commit to a tightly defined remit.
  3. Select a physical location close to a political sponsor.
  4. Adopt the right hiring strategy, organisational structure and leadership model.
  5. Ensure cross-government ownership of the delivery unit’s results agenda.
  6. Put routines in place to review effectiveness and refresh operations.