Business Case: XYZ Pharma

Leading change to boost sustainable positive impact to the community

“Each meeting is a development-rich experience, continuous feedback fosters personal development”

GB Business Cases

GB Projects are highly confidential. Business cases are presented using fictitious companies, but based on real practical experiences. Any similarities with actual persons or organizations are purely coincidental. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), organizations, places and products is intended or should be inferred.

The context


XYZ Pharma is one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in France, operating with direct offices in 35 countries and having approved drugs in 120 countries. It has been a public company since 2005. With company sales of 3.5 B€ and an operational result of 900 M€, the company has more than 7.000 employees worldwide. The company sales were growing a 2% last year. The company board consists of 14 directors, 10 men and 4 women, and has typically 10 meetings during the year. In 2020 a new CEO, Mr Legrand, was appointed by the board to lead the business transformation. Mr Legrand had to ensure the company’s sustainable growth and innovation strategy that delivers long-term value while fostering an internal culture based on entrepreneurship and agility and promoting patient-centric products and services. The company’s share price has risen by 15% over the last 6 months. 

Starting a conversation


I met the Chair of the Board (President du Conseill d’Administration), Mr Solis, weeks after the new CEO was appointed. Among the reasons to select the new CEO, Mr Legrand,  was his vision about how an international pharma company must be financial, social, and environmentally sustainable and promote a culture of excellence where integrity, diversity, and respect for different opinions are valued. The board of directors is committed to actively contributing to the company’s transformation by introducing changes in the governance process aligned with the company’s additional needs.

The first meeting with Mr Solis and 3 Ethics and Governance Committee members was beneficial for the project preparation. The meeting started focusing on how the board is helping the CEO and management team regarding three key strategies:

1- Increasing the efforts in R&D to generate more value;

2- Digital transformation of industrial processes to be more efficient and sustainable;

3- Using technology to develop a culture of collaboration and positive links to the community and society.

Besides supporting the management, I stressed that the board must define its own governance transformation goals and priorities aligned with its purpose and strategy. During the conversation, we agreed to work in the following directions: regarding strategy 1, more participation of the board increasing contributions of the company to the environment and society; regarding strategy 2: more implication of the board in the talent development and ethical issues related to the digital transformation, including the adoption of AI; regarding strategy 3: role of the board in developing technology to promote more equalitarian and inclusive culture in the company.

Finally, a joint meeting with the chairman of the board and the CEO was an opportunity to clarify details about the GB transformation model. Introducing experiential components in the governance process will generate a profound change and boost the board to its potential level.

Observing the board in action


I was attending as an observer a board meeting. The meeting was held for three hours in a meeting room in the company’s offices in Paris. The agenda was quite tided, and finally, not all the topics were discussed, and some left for the next meeting. The initial meeting agenda had a good balance of issues, but the way they addressed the different sections was very inflexible: long presentation of the topic,  proposal, Q&A, voting. While this traditional way of conducting discussions can be effective for fiduciary issues, creativity, diversity of viewpoints, and even confrontation are needed when the board proposes significant changes. If we want to boost the board to its maximum expression and performance, we need to start by transforming the traditional processes.

Project design


I prepared a draft of the project: an identification of significant goals, methods, additional elements to be introduced in the meetings and between meetings, a proposal for the training session and a proposal for the first GB meeting. The proposal was discussed and refined with the Chair and the Ethics and Governance Committee members. We introduced a few changes, and the first version of the project was ready to go for the following steps: the training session and the first GB meeting.



We organized the training session close to Paris, in a space open to nature, surrounded by a beautiful forest. During the training session, we presented and experienced the GB model. We put physical, emotional, intellectual, social and purpose related components into practice. The training started with a “to know and be known” activity. It is sometimes amazing how little the members of boards know about each other and how important it is to foster this mutual understanding. Identifying priorities for the board was the central topic addressed while using the GB method. The meeting was very engaging, and very positive energy was present during the three hours of the training session.

GB Meeting


We held the first Generative Board Meeting one month later.

Meeting venue

We held the meeting out of the office, in a  country farm room with views of the fields. The farm produces eco products. We kept the meeting in the afternoon, preceded by a light lunch comprising products of the farm. We planned the sessions for four hours.


We agreed that the new transformation and strategic issues would need at least 60% of the meeting time. We prepared the agenda to balance energy-intensive moments with recovery activities during the meeting.

Art & Nature

A known European foundation dedicated to art, humanities, and health, was exhibiting the finalist inspiring artworks of his painting competition “Art promotes Health” in the meeting room.

A promenade crossing the farm fields surrounded the farm buildings. It was a relaxing and inspiring environment to recover and walk during the breaks.


The purpose is the ultimate reason the company exists and makes a difference. XYZ Pharma is to improve patients’ lives by contributing to their health. Company purpose was present in the room as an inspiring collage prepared by a French artist combining authentic patient images using the company products and services.

Continuous feedback

Having explicit goals of the meeting and making visible the level of advance contributes to engagement, implication and attention and is a driver of performance. The members could evaluate the experience using the interactive video wall. The feedback was displayed on the interactive video wall screen application.

Short Presentations, more interaction

The presentations were brief or wholly removed and replaced by previously distributed documents. We included a concise presentation to introduce the discussion about Digital Transformation and Ethics. Starting from a draft by the CEO, we reviewed the presentation with the help of an external expert on the topic.

Incisive questioning

We formulated crucial and incisive questions in the first part of the transformation and strategy discussions. What is the impact of a patient-centric in new product development and clinical trials? How the risks of digital transformation and AI can impact the new strategy and products? What opportunities can be identified in front of the utilization of AI in our processes? How can we prepare the company workers for a more ambitious digital transformation? How can we prepare ourselves as the board to impulse the change?

Visual thinking

Interactive digital setup: we installed a big interactive video wall screen in the room. During the discussions, we used the screen as a whiteboard where all kinds of multimedia elements could be placed and combined. Multimedia elements include data analytics, visual infographics, images, draws, virtual post-its, and videos.

We used the video wall as an interactive tool for visual thinking. The technique was engaging and extremely useful in discussing specific transformation topics.

Intelligence & analytics

Data and information were presented as requested by the directors. Data and analytics were curated and prepared to facilitate quick and meaningful access. Technology was at the service of the experience, not the opposite.

Promoting diversity

The board generated new ideas regarding promoting diversity and inclusivity in the company. The members agreed that GB was an essential step in this direction. Fostering authentic diversity starts by promoting different thinking styles and points of view, and the board members recognized how the elements introduced in the governance process stimulate this diversity.


Appreciation of kindness: the topic surfaced when discussing how to improve the company’s connection to the community. They identified it as an essential aspect to be explicitly addressed by the company. By linking kindness and health, the clients and the patients will appreciate the image and contribution of the company.


At the end of the meeting, the participants shared how the meeting inspired new ideas, booster decision, and engaged discussion. The moment was as well used as the beginning of the preparation for the next meeting, suggesting topics for the next agenda.

Communication and image

The company website has a section about the relationship to the patients. After the GB meeting, it includes information on the board that promotes a culture of transparency and kindness to the patients.

Governance Transformation


We held two more GB meetings in other inspiring locations in France during the following year. The result at the end of a year of working together is a boosted transformation process, a board more responsive to additional needs and efficient support to the CEO and the management aligned to the company’s purpose and strategy. Board meetings are more dynamic and engaging, learning is a continuous process, and onboarding of new members is now more agile.