Danone: Executive Board Development

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Client Profile

Industry sector: FMCG

Location: Moscow, Russia

Challenge

One of the key challenges for Danone Russia was that the new Board of Directors had only been working together for around 7 months. The MD wanted to hold a meeting to discuss the latest Strategic Plan and to run through what each of the Directors needed to do and also what messages they needed to communicate to their staff in order for the plan to be executed successfully. The Board comprised a mixture of nationalities (Australian, British, French, German, and Russian). Some had been operating at Board level for a number of years, whilst others had less than a year’s service. a&dc were asked to attend a two-day offsite Board meeting and to act as facilitators/observers for the duration of the meeting. The aim was for us to provide subsequent feedback to each of the Board members and to the Board as a whole. In particular, the MD wanted feedback on the following:

  • How well the team worked together (highlighting individual and collective strengths & weaknesses)
  • The effectiveness of their communication style
  • The effectiveness of the meeting (in terms of the agenda, structure and the degree to which it achieved its objectives)
  • How well the MD ran the meeting, with particular reference to his leadership and facilitation style.

Solution

Prior to the meeting a document was circulated to the Board members explaining the purpose of the meeting and the role of the
consultants and the appropriate ground rules. The newly-appointed HR Director and the Managing Director were seeking to harness the skills of this group and to maximize their ability to work together as a team in order to lead the organization to achieve the ambitious growth targets which it had been set.

Facilitation
Helping the Board to function effectively, by intervening when necessary to guide the discussion, to clarify and resolve differences of opinion and to offer suggestions when the Board appeared to be struggling with a particular problem or issue.

Observation
Noting what the Board members said and did and gathering behavioural data for analysis and subsequent feedback. Two different types of observation were employed.

  • The first entailed making a verbatim transcript of what each Board member said and did during a 2-hour period. Their
    behaviour was then classified against an agreed list of relevant competencies, which included Persuasive Communication,
    Interpersonal Skills, Working in Teams, Integrity and Leadership.
  • The second type of observation involved another agreed time period during which the contributions from each member of
    the Board were noted and categorized against a standard set of ‘meeting behaviours’. This analysis provided data on the
    number of contributions made by each Board member, as well as the frequency of each type of contribution.

After the meeting, once all of the data had been analysed, confidential feedback was given to each member of the Board for 30 minutes, covering both verbal and non-verbal behaviours, and highlighting any counter-productive behaviours which had been observed during the meeting. Upon completion of the individual feedback sessions an additional overview of how the group had worked together was provided for the MD, although this did not include details of the individual feedback given to the other Board members.

At a subsequent review it was agreed to undertake further interventions, which included using psychometrics to identify fundamental differences in personality and style which might lead to conflict, providing individual coaching to the Board members, and running further diagnostics with 360 degree feedback and measurement of the team climate.

Outcome

The project was acknowledged by the Board to be a great success with each Director becoming more self-aware and more conscious of how their behaviour impacted upon the overall team’s ability to achieve its objectives. Individuals also became more conscious of some of the key differences between them and learned how to adapt their behaviour to make more effective contributions to future Board Meetings, thus ensuring a greater level of support for the new Strategic Plan.

What the client says

a&dc quickly developed an understanding of our business priorities and their support has helped us to recognise a number of important ways in which we can improve our performance as a team. I am confident that their expertise of working with other senior management teams and the insights which they provided have helped us to accelerate our development as a Board of Directors.” Karen Grigorian, HR Director, Danone Bolshevik