Our client was the UK government and, in particular the Cabinet Office. The incoming coalition government was committed to setting up a new Department Board for each of the 17 government departments. Each Board would be chaired by the relevant Secretary of State and would be attended by junior ministers from the department, the Permanent Secretary and their senior team and four Independent Directors, mostly from the private sector.
We worked closely with Lord Browne, the Government Lead Independent Director, to define both the skills required in each department and the messages to be given to potential candidates. The government was keen for the Boards to be up and running as soon as possible, so speed was critical.
Focusing initially on the Lead Independent Director for each department, we contacted some of the most senior figures in UK business, explaining what the government was trying to do and the role of the new Boards. We then broadened the search out to cover a range of skills that each department required as we build a team for each department. All of this had to be done at extreme speed whilst being handled sensitively and respecting confidentiality.
We met regularly with Lord Browne and senior civil servants as the new teams of Independent Directors came together, ensuring that political and business agendas and timetables and priorities were matched effectively across dozens of appointments.
The new Departmental Boards were up and running quickly with Lead Independent Directors including the Chief Executives of Standard Chartered, Centrica and Kingfisher. The overall skill-set of each Board was mapped to the strategic needs of the department and diversity, particularly of gender, was a strong focus with 35% of the appointments being women.
Once the initial appointments had been made we continued to fill in gaps as well as replace Board members as they rotated off and advise on skill gaps as departmental priorities shifted.