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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is a complex department with ever-changing responsibilities. Local employees and UK nationals work at a large number of overseas missions.

Reporting to the central Management Board, we reviewed the FCO to find out the mix of the staff, what their main functions and accountabilities were, and how work was organised. Which activities were duplicated? How appropriate were the managerial structures at the different sites? And who controlled costs? We sampled the work of almost 3,000 employees at fifteen embassies and consulates throughout the world - including Accra, Beirut, Bratislava, Colombo, Mexico City, Paris and St Petersburg, as well as support functions in London.

"The Collinson Grant study is an integral part of the FCO reorganisation. Not only will it contribute to decision making on how to re-prioritise resources, it will also generate ideas on how we can work more flexibly and responsively, both as individuals and as part of a team, to deliver the FCO Strategy."

We used Process Activity Analysis to draw a detailed picture of how employees used their time, and to reveal the scope for improvement. More comparative analyses showed variations in performance in different parts of the department. A by-product was a robust model of the FCO's costs, which it had never had before. Our report revealed opportunities to reduce costs in the order of £48 million. In line with the review by Sir Peter Gershon, it showed how up to 1,200 jobs could be saved in the UK and overseas. It also pointed out how working practices and managerial controls could be improved.

The FCO's annual report drew extensively on our work to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. It described what the FCO was doing to put our recommendations into effect:

"The FCO Board has considered the Collinson Grant report. It re-committed itself to achieving the £87 million target and agreed to incorporate the Collinson Grant work as far as possible into the FCO's existing Efficiency Plan. In addition, based on the findings, the Board agreed to review the Finance function in the FCO, both in London and overseas; identify resources that could be reallocated from low to high priority activity using the Collinson Grant comparative analysis of expenditure; and monitor, at Board level, the FCO's efforts to re-prioritise resources."

This work was also reported on the front page of the Financial Times and considered at the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons.