Infrastructure and Projects Authority chief Nick Smallwood on learning lessons, the 'Three Ps', and net-zero challenges

Written by Civil Service World on 28 December 2019 in Feature
Feature

As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories

Credit: PA

What was your highlight of 2019?

I would have to say when I joined the IPA in August! It’s an exciting time to be joining government, there is plenty to keep busy with. I am proud to have joined an organisation which has such a crucial and unique view from the centre of government and is home to such a great deal of expertise. The IPA has a real impact right across government. For example, in 2019 the IPA worked with the Department for Transport to make sure we are learning the right lessons from infrastructure projects that have gone before. Now we are focusing on making sure we are applying these lessons to projects that come next so we are continually learning and feeding back into the project-delivery system.

With a new government, there are more commitments on the horizon and more projects yet to come.

What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?

Since I joined the IPA, we have been working on the “Three Ps”. As the government’s centre of expertise for project, portfolio and programme management, I believe going into 2020 it is crucial we focus on people, performance and principles to ultimately support the delivery of the IPA’s vision to create the best performing projects system in the world. We need to think about how we can get the basics of project delivery right and about enforcing the system we currently have, whilst equipping our people with the tools and capability they need to deliver.

What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?

There will be new challenges for which we need new capabilities. With a new government, there are more commitments on the horizon and more projects yet to come. For example, in order to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 we will not only have to begin new projects but the change will also affect the entire supply chain with the rapid adoption of new technologies. We are preparing for this by continuing to work with our growing community of major project leaders to learn more about what they need – both to support them, and to help build the capability of their teams and the next generation of major project leaders in government. 

Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth...

Well, my birthday is actually Christmas Day! So for the first few years of my life I didn’t know the difference between Christmas and birthdays. During this time we lived in Singapore and Christmas overseas was always a happy time to share with my family.

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