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‘Tis the Season for Strategic Planning: A New Year’s resolution all organizations should make

By December 15, 2021 December 20th, 2021 No Comments

As we find ourselves in the holiday season and quickly approaching the New Year, many people are looking forward to family gatherings and celebrations.

This is also the time when people make New Year’s resolutions – to quit smoking, hit the gym, read more books, volunteer time to charities – as the coming year brings hope and promise.

But looking ahead isn’t just be for people. Organizations should be using this time to assess where they are with their mission and goals, where they want to go, and how they plan on getting there. People make resolutions for their aspirational goals and organizations should do the same, except we call them strategic plans. If your organization doesn’t have one, ’tis the season to create one.

Going through a strategic planning process can seem daunting – it can be a time-intensive activity with uncomfortable conversations, and some people don’t even know where to begin. There could be conflicting opinions among an organization’s leadership and a lack of realism about what can and can’t be accomplished.

But just remember … this doesn’t have to be an overly-complicated process! Find an experienced person or team (like Cerrell) that can guide you through the creation or refinement of your strategic plan.

The end of the year is the time when Cerrell works with clients to create strategic plans for the following year. We’re creating a strategic plan to increase community engagement for the City of Pinole, and working with Burbank Water & Power on drought-related messages in their Annual Plan. We’re working with our private sector clients in the health, infrastructure and technology sectors to create game plans to strengthen their brand and enhance their ability to influence public policy. For all of these clients, we follow these simple steps to create customized strategic plans:

Four Tips to Success


I know, this sounds silly. How does an organization not have clearly defined goals?! Even after 20 years in this business, I’m still shocked at how many organizations don’t know what they want their organization to achieve. Some groups are only thinking tactically about activities without the broader vision of how they want their organization to grow and evolve. And a strategic plan is pointless unless you know where you’re trying to go and what you’re trying to achieve.


You can’t figure out where you want to go unless you know where you’ve been and what has and hasn’t work. It’s that simple. Do an honest assessment of how things are going with your organization and the steps you’re taking to achieve your goals. We use a process known as D.O.S. (Dangers. Opportunities. Strengths.) to help crystalize an organization’s strengths and stretches before we even start thinking about a strategic plan.


You know the saying about assuming, how it makes an ass out of you and me? Well, we see that a lot unfortunately. “My development will be loved by the community.” or “I know my transportation project is the best and people will clearly support it!” Instead of assuming and behind widely off-target, engage your audience in meaningful ways – survey research, focus groups, informal surveys, community conversations, etc. – to find out what your target audience REALLY thinks and what messages resonate with them.


You’ve done all the background work (whew!) and now it is time to create your plan on how you intend to achieve your goals. What strategies, messages and tactics you intend to use will simply flow from the previous steps, creating the sequential steps from where you currently are to where you want to go. This plan must include benchmarks to achieve and a timeline to follow so you can measure progress, while still having the flexibility to make mid-course corrections in case the situation on the ground changes.

Still looking for additional guidance?

As the saying goes, “failure to plan is planning to fail.” And we’ve seen it happen time and again. To put yourself and your organization on the path to success in 2022, create or refresh your strategic plan and you’ll be sure to have a happier New Year. Contact us today if you’d like to discuss your organization’s future success.

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