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Strategy Driver takes on clients that are ready for transformation – realizing that what led them to success today may not be what will lead them to success tomorrow. We understand the diverse nature of the evolving marketplace and how your organization can make informed business decisions. Our integrated approach assesses the opportunities to expand business, prepares executive leadership to develop and execute the vision, and improves business acumen to optimize client service. We develop a customized approach that will engage your executive team, facilitate forward-thinking, and realize your organization’s full potential. We work with a variety of clients including small to large private companies, and state, federal and local agencies.

What they say

In 2017, I was fortunate to observe Ellen conducting a strategic plan update for a water agency in the Sacramento Region.  Her energy, enthusiasm, wittiness, humor and ability to control the process was amazing.  Sacramento Suburban Water District (SSWD) developed and updated its Strategic Plan on a periodic basis, however, only the Board and executive staff participated in the process.  When I became the General Manager of SSWD in January 2018, one of my personal goals was to update the District’s Strategic Plan.  Aside from Board and executive staff participation, I also wanted each and every employee to participate throughout the process.  When I suggested to Ellen that I wanted to include all staff, she informed me that she had never been directed to involve an entire public organization through a Strategic Plan process.  However, Ellen was very enthusiastic and welcomed the challenge.   Ellen met and exceeded the challenge that created an interactive and engaging platform that encouraged meaningful input from staff at every level.  Ellen’s ability to define roles and responsibilities throughout the process made SSWD staff feel comfortable providing their valuable input.
Dan York, General Manager, Sacramento Suburban Water District

Ellen Cross is leading the Communication & Engagement (C&E) tasks on behalf of five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to develop an integrated Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Paso Robles Basin.  On behalf of the GSAs, she was able to draft a C&E Plan and execute 5 public workshops within 6 weeks to launch our robust outreach efforts.  Ellen’s approach was to promptly identify goals and benefits of the process for all Interested Parties and create an interactive and engaging platform to encourage meaningful input.  Ellen’s direct but amiable style created rapport and collective ownership with the GSAs and stakeholders for the shared responsibility of developing a sustainable groundwater basin for the benefit of the public trust.
Dick McKinley, Public Works Director/GSA Staff, City of Paso Robles

As one of five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, the County of San Luis Obispo had the opportunity to work with Ellen Cross of Strategy Driver, Inc. on development of a Communication & Engagement (C&E) Plan for the Paso Robles Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). With rapid response, Ellen developed the C&E Plan and swiftly began designing the outreach to “Fast Launch” a series of Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) workshops to engage the GSAs and Interested Parties on the GSP development process. Ellen quickly came up to speed on the basin and helped facilitate open and direct discussions with the GSAs and public working together on an unexplored path. Her communication style encouraged a results-driven process to minimize barriers and promote progress towards meeting the SGMA requirements while conveying meaningful benefits to the community at large.
Angela Ruberto, Water Resources Engineer/GSA Staff, Department of Public Works, County of San Luis Obispo

Ellen Cross as a lead facilitator, has engaged 20 Cities and the County of San Mateo as part of the City and County Association of Governments (C/CAG) to reconcile recommendations from an appointed Staff Advisory Team (SAT) of 18 stakeholders, and to interview City staff and elected officials to explore the formation of a new Proposed Agency for regional flood, sea level rise and stormwater. In Congresswomen Jackie Speier’s call to action in March 2018, the C/CAG Water Committee directed this project to be completed in 6 months. Within days of contract signature, Ellen and her colleagues with Environmental Science Associates, developed and executed a workshop with the SAT to develop a Strategic Framework including a draft mission, vision, goals and priority objectives for the team of Public Works Directors, City Managers, Electeds, Attorney’s, Planners and Water and Flood Engineers. While Ellen and her team had never worked with the 21 entities, they were able to quickly develop the messaging that would help the 21 entities relate to the overall objectives of the process and goals, and to engage in a transparent and thought-provoking way. Through an organized and structured approach, she has been able to garner feedback from more than 60 city representatives, at varied levels of decision-making responsibilities. The scale and pace of this project is extraordinary and Ellen’s ability to define roles and responsibilities and direct products to create alignment in evaluating a new agency is unprecedented.
Erika Powell, PE, Flood Resiliency Program Director, San Mateo County Department of Public Works

Ellen Cross facilitated a strategic planning session with our diverse, statewide board of directors. She brought a high level of energy, skill and even humor to coalesce the board around  a common vision and discreet set of priorities that will guide the organization over the next two years. Her knowledge and expertise in leading our association to identify an envisioned future and a path to get there was invaluable.
Jennifer G. Persike, Deputy Executive Director External Affairs & Member Services, Association of California Water Agencies

For the past couple of years Ellen has been key contributor to GEI’s leadership, having helped the Board develop it 5-year strategic plan and address critical issues of governance. Ellen is a strategic thinker that can help advance the thinking of an organization in a very collaborative way. She engages and communicates very well. As the “Outside” Director on GEI’s Board, Ellen brought an external viewpoint to the Board’s discussions, always looking to provide shareholder value (GEI is employee owned) while exercising her fiduciary responsibility. Ellen was instrumental in helping the Board see more broadly some of the complex issues and risks that a professional services company must navigate to be successful.

Ray Hart, Former CEO/President/Board Director, GEI

I couldn’t be more pleased with Ellen as Cramer Fish Sciences’ first external board member. She has brought invaluable insight and leadership to our company strategy discussions. Her rich experience in mergers and acquisitions helped the board fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities with excellence as the company negotiated and executed a leveraged ESOP buy-out of the company founder. Ellen brings a positive “can-do” attitude and energy that has made us a better company.

Ken Schrader, CEO, Cramer Fish Sciences

I would like to recommend Ellen Cross for facilitation on projects that require astute sensitivity to stakeholders that have diverse goals and often competing missions. Ellen’s role is to promote dialogue between maintaining agency and regulatory agency staff that encourages solutions to leverage maintenance opportunities, minimize constraints, and improve permitting and maintenance procedures for flood control activities on local and regional scales.
Jon Erikson, DWR Chief, Division of Flood Management

Ellen’s style is collaborative transparent and inclusive which helps facilitate extremely busy decision makers to focus on progressively moving the conversation of the imminent threat of sea level rise that puts at risk billions of dollars of infrastructure and property into enthusiastic action. With such a large number of diverse stakeholders with varying missions, Ellen’s fearless and sensitive approach galvanizes people to venture into unmapped territories – which for coastal hazards will require mutual support to inform decision making and resource allocation.
Rohin Saleh, Supervising Civil Engineer for Alameda County Flood Control and Watershed Conservation Agency

She [Ellen] had the ability to come into a mature, yet new project process and with an expeditious and direct approach; she gained the confidence of the stakeholders to create an outcome that could be dovetailed into the MUSR RFMP Report…Ellen’s broad understanding of the water and flood issues in Northern California enabled her to quickly come up to speed and engage the stakeholders in a transparent, knowledgeable and collaborative manner that encouraged stakeholders to delve into the issues to create shared goals.
Barry O’Regan, Associate Civil Engineer, KSN, Inc.

Ellen Cross in collaboration with Convey, Inc. was hired by Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to partner with FEMA to develop and facilitate a new working group in the Bay Area called CHARG: Coastal Hazards Adaptation and Resiliency Group. Ellen and Sybil Hatch have partnered with our Steering Committee of federal, state and local representatives as well as over 100 stakeholders to lead us in envisioning the mission and goals of this inter-agency working group. In only a few months we have engaged engineers, scientists, planners and local governments that did not have a prior forum to discuss timely and critical issues facing the Bay Area. Our focus has been to discuss and develop a regional integrated response to sea level rise and develop actions to further collective partnerships in responding to these issues. Ellen’s knowledge of the stakeholders’ perspectives and the technical, institutional, funding, and regulatory drivers has been invaluable in moving our agenda forward in an environment that fosters collaboration and trust to create short term and long term results. Ellen’s organizational and facilitation skills are exceptional. With my busy schedule, she makes it very easy for me to lead this effort.
Kathleen Schaefer, P.E., CFM, Regional Engineer, FEMA Region IX

Over the many years I have known Ellen, her energy and enthusiasm for getting things done has never waned, nor has her ability to impassion others with this energy. This results in actual accomplishments instead of the usual serial meeting syndrome so prevalent today. Ellen is extremely bright and in a collaborative setting, very quickly assesses the strengths and weakness of participants. She can change tactics in a second and guide results in a way most others cannot. I witnessed this first hand during a Board of Directors retreat when the entire focus of the retreat changed instantly because of a major unanticipated event. Ellen didn’t miss a beat in facilitating a great outcome although there was no way for her to prepare for the event in advance. This ability to instantly adapt sets Ellen apart from others.
Scott A. Morris, Esq., P.E., Shareholder, Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard P.C. and Vice President, Water Education Foundation

At a time of great change for the Water Education Foundation, Ellen Cross led our diverse board of directors in a very successful board retreat. Her ability to facilitate and lead to consensus this group of people with differing goals and agendas was truly amazing.
Rita Schmidt Sudman, Executive Director, Water Education Foundation

Ellen is focused, driven, organized and also a pleasure to work with. In teaming up with her on a special event for the Saving the Bay PBS TV series, she not only assembled a great group to work with but also very effectively led the group including assigning many of the tasks to herself.
Ron Blatman, Executive Producer/Producer, Saving the Bay, Four Emmy Awards Winning Documentary

I’m pleased to be able to recommend Ellen Cross for her ability to help build consensus among diverse stakeholders that have broad and at times competing priorities. Ellen was instrumental in assisting the Regional Water Authority (RWA) in developing our updated Strategic Plan (2013-18), which provided a framework for a number of new and expanded initiatives. Her ability to understand diverse issues including policy, technical, funding and institutional perspectives gives her the ability to elevate the conversation from tactical to strategic. She helps science and engineering professionals move outside of their silos and think more broadly. One of Ellen’s strengths is helping to clarify thinking and communication. Her energy and passion are an added bonus.
John Woodling, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority and Co-Chair, Sacramento Metro Chamber Water Resources Committee

Ellen knows the water world. She is extremely well networked, well regarded, energetic, and diligent. In addition, she brings great creativity to a field that needs it now more than ever.
Larry McKenney, Executive Counsel, Santa Ana Watershed Project Agency

As part of the Sacramento Metro Chamber “Cap to Cap” Water Resources Team, Ellen worked with our Regional Water Authority and other agency, government and business representatives to develop policy papers and appropriation requests on critical water issues and solutions in Sacramento. Ellen’s former Capitol Hill career and communication experience helped focus our message to inform federal and state decision makers on the benefits of shared responsibility to meeting our public obligations.
Rob Roscoe, General Manager of Sacramento Suburban Water District + Member, Regional Water Authority


Ellen engaged the City and the Port to learn about our key challenges, goals and stakeholder concerns for the conceptualization of the Oakland Promenade project. This complex project included four key areas of interest including reconnecting the urban fabric to the waterfront, revitalizing the local economy, restoring natural wetlands and creating public open space. Ellen developed a diverse local team with international recognition that not only met the City’s vision but has received nationwide accolades for innovation and design.
Kerry Jo Ricketts-Ferris, ASLA, Project Manager, City of Oakland Parks and Openspace

Ellen has been effective since the day she started working with us. She’s helped us improve firm visibility in key markets, broaden our network, increase work opportunities, and secure new work. She brings tremendous energy to her work and gets results.
Leslie Moulton, Vice President and Director of Water, ESA

Ellen is a catalyst for change, in all the right ways – she has repositioned the Region for continuing and long-term success by promoting technical excellence and fostering a vibrant business culture.
Gary W. Oates, CEO, ESA

Ellen’s knowledge of the market, her network, and strategic thinking are unsurpassed. She continues to make “business-changing” contributions to Brown and Caldwell in helping to build our Water Resources Practice. It’s always a pleasure to work with Ellen - her drive and energy are infectious. I’ve never seen anyone get results more quickly.
Cindy Paulson, Ph.D., P.E., Senior Vice President, Brown & Caldwell

With the Regional Water Authority serving more than 22 member agencies, Ellen has partnered with the RWA to assist in fulfilling our Strategic Objective of education and training. Ellen’s collaborative and energetic style has been successful at engaging industry experts, assessing members’ interests, and developing and delivering value added workshops for the RWA Forum: An Advanced Discussion on Emerging Water Issues. This format for discussion, education and active participation has proven to be beneficial to the members with attendance of more than 100 water utility general managers, board members, and directors ~ Ellen’s focus on results to benefit multiple stakeholders are undoubtedly the right ingredients for success!
Edward Winkler, P.E., Former Executive Director, Regional Water Authority

I am recommending Ellen to a number of Management Design's clients as I believe she is the most effective consultant in the Bay area for strategic marketing planning and implementation. In addition, Ellen understands marketing's role in the broader context of developing a firm's vision and strategic plan. I worked with Ellen for a number of years at EDAW and am very impressed with her creative conceptualization skills and her unique ability to actually implement what she has helped plan. She also understands how recruiting and retention, as well as M&A strategies, all fit into strategic positioning of a practice to achieve a firm's vision and build value.
Steve Quiggle, Principal, Management Design



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