Senior Responsible Owner

Senior Responsible Owner – what does that even mean and what does he or she do? Well, one of the key reasons that big, complex programmes can fail or at least, not achieve what they are supposed to, on time and budget is a lack of clear accountability. So in 2000, the UK adopted the SRO (sometimes also referred to as a programme executive) as the single point of accountability for public sector programmes: SROs of major UK projects are named here.

The SRO is ultimately responsible for the achievement of ‘benefits’ i.e. the thing doing what it’s supposed to in support of the bigger picture. As an RAF SRO I am expected to be publicly visible, an advocate for the programme and in a change to past military postings policy, stay in post for an extended period to see programmes through key stages.

I’m responsible for managing my stakeholders; informing and collaborating with them to make sure they deliver to me, I deliver to them and they work in support of my programmes. I ensure the programme is on track, keeping tabs on the myriad of inputs complex programmes can have. A good example for the RAF is our ‘capital programmes’ like the AIRSEEKER signals intelligence aircraft. It’s tempting to focus just on the 3 aircraft that the RAF is acquiring, but particularly for a capability like


Defence Lines of Development capture the ‘non-equipment’ factors

this, the aircraft is only a portion of what delivers the benefit. To do this, we have to have trained people, infrastructure support for operations and maintenance, a plan for how to use the capability (in military terms, this is out ‘doctrine’) and of course an information and communications backbone to gather, filter and transmit data to get it where it needs to be to inform decisions. The aircraft really is just the tip of the iceberg; recruiting, retaining and training the right people can often take longer and be harder than negotiating a contract to buy airplanes!

How do you know things are on course? Well the National Audit Office compiles an annual report of Defence’s largest programmes so it’s possible to track them. Also, the Major Projects Authority compiles an annual report. The most recent one shows that the UK has some 188 projects officially designated ‘major’ due to their cost and/or impact. These combined are worth ¬£489Bn! AIRSEEKER is one of these Government Major Projects. In order to drive the kind of improvements identified in the MPA report a rigorous holding to account process is established; I may be summoned to give evidence to the Parliamentary select-committee-300x150.jpgAccounts Committee about any of my Major Projects and I am required to undertake a third party ‘Gateway Review’ at frequent stages throughout the lifecycle.

In order to make sure I can deliver both the programme and the information to enable the governance of it, I have a Programme Management Office here at RAF Air Command. With the help of other distributed staff, notably in the Defence Equipment & Support at Abbey des.gifWood, these people are the powerhouse of the programme. Together, we work on those things that put at risk any element of the programme, we manage the drumbeat of programme activities, co-ordinate publicity and stakeholder communications and of course, produce information for scrutiny.

I hope this has given you an overview of what an SRO does but I would be happy to answer any questions through the comments section and please watch my Twitter account for some of the day-to-day SRO work that goes on in managing some of these programmes.




What is a Station Commander?

A lot of people ask what being a Station Commander actually involves so I thought I would try to answer (briefly). Firstly, each RAF base is different; Lossiemouth has about 2500 people working here, a mix of military, Civil Servants and contractors – what we call the ‘Whole Force Concept’


Picture – Ian Daniels

The base is home to 3 x Tornado GR4 Squadrons, a flight of Sea King Search and Rescue helicopters, a Wing of RAF Regiment Force Protection troops, regional legal and Defence Infrastructure Organisation and a host of combat support and combat service support elements. In addition to RAF Lossiemouth, we operate the Relief Landing Ground at Kinloss Barracks (formerly RAF Kinloss), the Force Development Training Centre at Grantown on Spey and the Adventure Training facility at Feshiebridge Lodge as well as a number of remote refuelling sites that provide top up capability for our Sea Kings and Coastguard/Royal Navy Search and Rescue helicopters.


So to my job. I serve 3 distinct roles: Station Commander, Delivery Duty Holder and Head of Establishment.

Station Commander – This is the least-changed role. I am responsible, through the Tornado Force Commander, for the military output of the Station – essentially achieving the tasks that we have been set, making sure people have the right skills and training, maintaining discipline, developing our people.

Delivery Duty Holder – This is the equivalent of the ‘accountable manager’ in civilian terms and simply put, it means that I am personally and legally accountable for the safe operation of all aviation activities at the base. If a risk emerges that I am unable to resolve, I am able to elevate it to my ‘Operational Duty Holder’ and he can elevate it to the ‘Senior Duty Holder’ (Chief of the Air Staff) and we 3 people are the only ones who can hold risk in the aviation chain. The Air Safety chain operates independently from the Chain of Command and as you can see, issues can flow quickly to a very senior level. This means that risk is held at the lowest possible level and down at the Station, where I smell jet fuel and oversee the day-to-day activity, I am empowered to manage and hold risks, always working under the principle that they must be both Tolerable and the risk must be As Low As Reasonably Practicable. More on this in future posts.

Head of Establishment – Most people don’t naturally think of this role but in ‘functional’ safety terms, I am responsible to the Health and Safety Executive for the safe operation of a large airport in exactly the same way as the head of any same-sized organisation. Because we hold dangerous items here, we are mandated to conduct major disaster planning and exercises; I am responsible for the safe conduct of procedures like working at height and in confined spaces and the safe operation of our road network. In addition, I am responsible for our environmental protection measures and other things such as our legionella prevention and control plan.


Assisting in demolishing the old Senior NCOs Mess following construction of the new facility

So there you have it, I hope I have scratched the surface of the 3 main roles of a Station Commander; I’ll follow this up with more info on what actually happens in each of these roles and hopefully as you read my tweets, you’ll see how I’m performing each of them daily.


Posted with BlogsyPosted with Blogsy

The end of a great week at RAF Lossiemouth

The Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor operational phase has been running for the last 2 weeks. The Exercise allows the weapons instructor students from the combat air, ISTAR and other Forces to come together, plan together then execute and debrief large force missions consisting of about 50-60 aircraft, ground threats and other ‘injects’. I was fortunate enough to fly with 1 (Fighter) Squadron today on the last mission. Reuniting with the Typhoon was brilliant as its been 8 years since I served on the Operational Evaluation Unit and flew her last.

But aside from the huge tactical benefits of this Exercise, for RAF Lossiemouth, it has been a great opportunity for the personnel from 1 Squadron to get more familiar with our Station and its facilities and local area before they move here from RAF Leuchars next autumn. For us, it has been a very useful chance to better understand the Typhoon and to get used to supporting it. For example, one of the hangars that will be used to house the aircraft is already complete and we have used it extensively to store and service up to 15 Typhoons.

So a very successful time, lots and lots of hard work – our Air Traffic Control for example, has dealt flawlessly with 4 times the usual aircraft movements, our messes have fed all the extra people and hopefully the local economy has felt the benefit too.



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