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There is limited literature for operational management competency development in E and F grade nursing staff. These grades of nursing staff have to take over from G grade nurses ward managers on a regular basis. With human resources doing less of the operational management and taking more of an advisory role, nursing staff are now required to deal with disciplinary procedures and other management issues in a more consistent manner. Therefore, this development programme in a Scottish primary care NHS psychiatric service was designed to enable E and F grade nurses to take over from ward managers and to enable ward managers to ‘succession plan’ for times when they will be absent. The literature is reviewed, the background to the development programme described and the design of the development programme is explained. The results from both the pilot study (n = 13) and first group (n = 8) through the course are presented, evaluated discussed.