William Sager, Senior Associate
“Our Strategic Planning Process Leader”

We know that predicting the future is at best difficult, particularly in today’s chaotic times.  Regardless of that reality, organizations still only have two choices: either plan for the future or do not plan.

Failure to plan is planning to fail. Strategic planning is one method by which an organization can plan to at least have some control over its destiny.  Strategic planning is not a panacea; nevertheless, strategic planning does provide organizations guidance and principles by which their futures can be structured.

Avoid Paralysis by Analysis

Citygate believes, along with management authority Tom Peters, that strategic planning can easily lead to paralysis by analysis, or as Brian Quinn stated, “a good deal of corporate planning is like a ritual rain dance, it has no impact on the weather.”

The chief concern of all strategic planning critics is that opportunities and challenges will arise and the plan does not prepare the organization to take advantage of those opportunities or overcome the roadblocks when they occur. And in today’s chaotic world, they will occur.

Start Fresh

Citygate supports a fresh approach we call “values-based applied strategic planning.” Most textbook strategic planning starts out by assessing the organization’s mission, followed by focusing on the vision, and finally evaluating the organizational values. This follows the conventional organizational model of what, how, and why. Citygate uses an approach that breaks this paradigm. Our model works from why, how, and what.

Values and Culture Come First

We start planning by examining the values and culture of the organization and the community served. We do this because these are the intangibles that actually motivate an organization to act in a particular way. Ultimately, when unexpected opportunities or challenges arise, it will be the values and ongoing culture that drives the organization’s decision-making process and leads the organization forward.

Second…Vision of the Future

After the values are understood (the why), we then ask the planning team to envision the future of the organization. This vision of the future can be likened to a road map to an end state – how the organization will get there.


After a vision of the future is developed (the how) then the planning team can either update or create a new mission statement (the what).

This is the necessary underlying structure for proceeding with planning. This process then leads to Environmental Monitoring where the planning team collects all the possible inputs about the various environments it operates within, both internal and external. This environmental monitoring is a constant throughout the planning process.

This is the “applied” part of strategic planning. Citygate’s plans result in objective, measurable and resourced “mini-plans” for each service line or program the organization offers. The entire mini-plan commitments and resource needs are then blended into an integrated, achievable time-over-distance plan that advances the prioritized actions.

While values-based strategic planning develops measurable results that enable the organization to fully deliver on its commitments, our planning also places emphasis on integrating into the plan the random noise, impressions, and performance audit findings that we as seasoned consultants are able to glean from analyzing the organization. Henry Mintzberg concludes in The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning:

“While hard data may inform the intellect, it is largely soft data that generates wisdom.”

Citygate’s strategic planning approach goes further still; in addition to providing consultants with years of experience, we teach the process to the organization’s planning team so that when we leave, a group of planners has been developed who understand how to plan and can keep the plan alive and adjust it as circumstances require. The planning team becomes invested in the plan and more importantly, the organization’s future. They will act as guardians to ensure that the plan is lived.

With the ingredients of why, how, and what in this order, the organization’s strategic plan is on sound footing that can reliably guide its future. This strong foundation is an essential consideration that enables the organization to be flexible and ready to meet a highly volatile future in which unpredictable change is guaranteed. In a crisis, the organization does not need to reconsider its why, all that is needed is to adapt changes into the how or the what.

Citygate’s pledge to our strategic planning clients is:

  • We care passionately about strategic planning, not only as a concept but as a means for organizations to guide their future;
  • We are relentless in our focus on quality strategic plans;
  • We develop plans that are practical and useful and leave behind in the organization a cadre of trained planners.

This Process Works!

We recently used our strategic planning model to assist the Los Angeles-Long Beach Fire Chiefs Regional Training Group with a very difficult strategic plan for 31 fire agencies, and as their project manager, Timothy Scranton, the Fire Chief in Beverly Hills, stated, “Citygate completed a near impossible task of creating a strategic plan for the entire region in less than two months – they are incredible and I am grateful!  I am a huge Citygate fan and share my experiences with everyone.” An example of this strategic plan can be found at:


If you would like to talk to us about creating a values-based strategic plan in your agency, please call William Sager at (916) 458-5100 ext. 302, or email him at:



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