'For the first time, the public sector is asked to operate in a marketplace,' explained Pauline Weight, a teaching fellow at Cranfield School of Management, which is running specialist programmes for public-sector managers.
'Managers in the public sector are now expected to belong to a different culture; one that has to get value for money, making sure every pound is spent in the best way. So it looks for a different perspective. It is sending people here because Cranfield is seen as private-sector orientated and they can use our experience.'
HMSO Business Supplies is one of Cranfield's new customers. The training programme designed for its senior staff includes tailored courses and workshops on issues critical to HMSO, plus open courses on strategic management, marketing management and managing people.
Two years ago, Alan Davies, former director of Business Supplies, HMSO's largest trading division, realised the competence level had to be raised.
He broke down the division into 24 small businesses to function as profit centres under seven main businesses.
But something else was needed. 'You can only delegate if you have competent people to delegate to,' Mr Davies said. 'So I sent 12 senior managers to Cranfield, to train with the private sector.'
A second group is now training. In all, 48 managers will go to Cranfield and up to 60 middle managers to Sundridge Park Management Centre.
When Paul Barnard went to Cranfield he was commercial director of Business Supplies. 'I'm a certified accountant. None of my training has involved managing people, and this course was especially beneficial: it made you look in the mirror,' he said.
'Marketing management summed up the whole concept of Business Supplies. It's increasingly important because none of our customers has to buy from us. We're a mail-order organisation, so we must give exceptional service.'
Andrew Norton, who devised the HMSO programme, said: 'This was the managers' first business training to sharpen their skills. It got them thinking about strategy, which they've not had to worry about before. They recognise that people can bring about change and play a significant part in their organisation's future.'