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Visit to HMRC – Continuous improvement

Q members explored the pitfalls and successes of HMRC -Benefits and Credits 17-year continuous improvement journey.

5 Feb 2020
10:00 – 15:30

Washington, Tyne & Wear

HMRC - Benefits and Credits

Making improvement an organisational habit rather than a series of projects is the ultimate aim for many improvers. Although there is no simple solution to realising this aim, HMRC is one of the most successful examples of continuous improvement in the public sector.


Back in 2001, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs set about tackling a significant challenge: their workforce was to be reduced by 20% and the remaining staff would have to deal with the workload. With the help of consultancies, a blended approach of Lean and OD-informed leadership (labelled Pacesetter) was decided on and implemented. In 2011, an interim National Audit Office report estimated the benefits of the programme to be £400 million in resource savings and £860 million in increased revenues.

Due to cutbacks in investment post-2008, HMRC was forced to become self-sufficient in their approach. They ran their own academies, developed their own practitioners. Now it’s not known as a programme, it’s known as ‘continuous improvement.’ As part of their ongoing staff development, new staff are taken to a ‘Gold Standard’ site to learn about this approach. These sites are considered exemplars of continuous improvement.

What you’ll learn

Through this visit, Q members had access to the ‘Gold Standard’ site of HMRC Benefits and Credits in the North East. They learnt about their approach to continuous improvement and staff engagement that has evolved over the last 17 years as well as understanding how they can track their own progress in continuous improvement maturity

Aims and objectives

The aim of this visit was to introduce members to ways of making improvement an organisational habit. By the end of the session members:

  • Learned how Benefits and Credits – and the wider HMRC – have implemented and developed their approach to continuous improvement over the last 17 years.
  • Saw first-hand how continuous improvement approaches have been adapted to suit areas with complex and variable work.
  • Understood the measures and mechanisms used to assess continuous improvement maturity, including behaviours and culture.
  • Reflected on this learning and considered replicating these insights within their own work contexts.

Who would benefit from attending?

This visit would suit all Q members but would be particularly applicable to those who are seeking to change organisation behaviours and habits. A basic understanding of Lean and/or continuous improvement would be beneficial but is not essential.

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Slides from the day

This section of the page is for Q members only. If you are already a member please log in, and if not, find out more about joining Q.