Business Case: ABC Real Estate

From fiduciary board to Generative Board

“We are now much more focused on a purpose aligned strategy.”

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


ABC Real Estate is one of the leading real estate companies in Switzerland, owning offices and business premises in the main cities of the country: Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, and others. It has been a public company since 2004. The company income grew 2% last year, being the sales volume over 500 Million CHF. The company board is integrated by 10 directors, 7 men and 3 women, and has 8 meetings during the year. Recently a new CEO has been appointed. The new CEO, Mr Kaplan, has the request to redefine the company transformation strategy for the next 3 years, to achieve substantial growth and at the same time reduce the investment risk. Some facts to worry about: the vacancy rate of lease properties was growing, of the contracts maturing during the last year only 60% were renewed, where normally that figure was around 85%. The company’s share price has dropped 15% over the last 6 months.

Starting a conversation


During the first meeting with Mr Rubens, the Chairman of the Board, he expresses his concern about how the board can connect and support better the new CEO in the company’s transformation strategy. The board has diligently played its monitoring role until now, but he believes that the company needs more strategic implications from the directors. On the one hand, the new strategy definition by the new CEO is not crystalizing into something concrete. In front of shareholders, the board must evaluate new scenarios and related risks with transparency. Additionally, the chair believes a new strategy needs to be reinforced by a substantial compromise of the company to digital transformation, and at the same time fostering sustainability and more implication to the local communities. Still, he doesn’t see how the board can trigger this change.
We share the vision that the company’s transformation needs to start at the board level. Mr Rubens confirms that the professionality and human quality of the directors are excellent, but the board is not at its full potential. Based on his inputs, the main guidelines of the project are drafted: more active implication of the board in the identification of the company purpose and aligned strategic aspects of the company, better connection of the board to the CEO and the change management team, and positive contribution and more transparent communication not only to the shareholders but to the stakeholders in general and the community. During the meeting, I explained the Generative Board model of transformation, introducing purpose-driven experiential components in the governance process to generate a profound change and boost the board to its potential level. A meeting with the CEO confirms the need to improve links with the board and the expectations about the board’s transformational role.

Observing the board in action


The next step was to attend a routinary meeting as an observer, where I can confirm the high quality of the directors, being respectful and assuming their roles in a very professional way. Nevertheless, I can verify that the meeting is essentially addressing formal and fiduciary matters, according to an agenda where the legal aspects occupy 90% of the time. Additionally, I see how the new CEO presents the new ideas with not much confrontation by the board, despite all the members being concerned about clarifying the transformation elements, the new strategy and the risks to the company. Questions are just on the subject’s surface, probably because no director wants to be seen as a conflicting member in front of the management. The meeting was held for three hours at the company’s main offices in Zurich, in a traditional meeting room with a long table, minimum natural light, and even a disturbing background noise coming from the street. Regarding digital tools, it became clear that the available meeting management application was underused.


Project design


I prepared a first design consisting of a definition of the main transformation goals, the methods, new practices, new elements introduced during the meetings and between meetings, the design and planning of the training session and the first Generative Board meeting. I discussed the project together with the chair and three directors.



The training session was highly engaging and injected energy into the group. A place in close to a lake was chosen, with beautiful views of the mountains. Directors reflected on how the environment has a radical impact on the performance of the work. During the training session, we experienced the GB model. We put physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and purpose-related components into practice. The directors discovered how low performance is linked to not creating the conditions to address the essential issues and leaving those matters untreated. One of the training practices is to discuss the company’s purpose as a driver of change, and how a deep and incisive discussion can help generate an authentic and shared company purpose vision.

GB Meeting


One month later, we held the first Generative Board Meeting.

Meeting venue

The meeting venue was not the traditional meeting room in Zurich. Instead, we held the GB meeting in Barcelona beach at the W Hotel, where architecture and the Mediterranean sea merge in an inspiring location. The meeting was held in the afternoon, preceded by Mediterranean cuisine light lunch. Directors and the CEO were staying at the hotel that night. We planned the session for four hours.


We agreed that the strategic and transformation issues would need at least 60% of the meeting time regarding the agenda. We carefully prepared the agenda to balance energy-intensive moments with recovery activities. The agenda was shared with sufficient time in advance, requesting feedback from the directors. The meeting management software application was very beneficial for that. 

Art & Nature

Switzerland’s known digital art collective prepared an interactive digital installation in the meeting room. It consisted of a video wall presenting a digital work titled “Office with no walls”. The artwork referred to the transition to remote and hybrid working from home that many companies are implanting and is impacting the rental of business offices.

The V Hotel is located at the “paseo marítimo” of Barcelona, an inspiring and relaxing promenade in front of the sea, where members could have a refreshing walk.

Using the room & space

Space can be an ally for intensive discussion moments. Directors learned how to exploit space as a tool, position themselves according to points of view, materialize intellectual distance, and be used as the scenery of action and movement for consensus. Placing objects placing themselves can contribute share ideas and opinions better.


 The company had no truly explicit purpose declaration; we discussed this point during the previous training session. In a GB meeting, the company purpose is continuously present -even physically in the form of images and infographics- to help discussions. The company’s purpose is the driver of change, not the opposite.

Continuous feedback

Feedback was a crucial point addressed at the training session and put into practice during the GB meeting. Identifying the board’s goals and making visible the level of advance contributes to engagement, implication and attention, as the directors recognize it. At any time, the members could evaluate the experience using their mobile phone, indicating one or several “Plus” to show good progress, a “Minus” to indicate a regress, or a “Delta” to indicate a deviation from the main goals. The counting was displayed on the interactive video wall screen using appealing infographics.

Minimum presentations, full interaction

In the past, the traditional approach for the discussion was presentations by the CEO followed by the directors’ comments. We decided in the agenda not to make these presentations and replace most of them with previously distributed documents. Before the meeting, we prepared and spread curated links to articles and data analytics to prepare for the discussion.

Intelligence & analytics

Digital tools highly facilitated access to data and information. Technology was at the service of the experience, not the opposite. With the available digital tools, data and information were presented as requested by the directors. Data and analytics were curated and prepared to facilitate quick and meaningful access. 

Incisive questioning

The first part of the discussion was dedicated to asking incisive questions around the following topics: What are the emerging new trends in office utilization and remote working? What is the impact of digital transformation in remote working? How the recent trends are, and will they impact the office rental business of the company? What opportunities can the company have in front of such changes? Can we prepare the company for a digital disruptive change? How do we prepare ourselves as a board to lead the transformation? Iterative reformulation of questions was a valuable technique to remove limiting assumptions and encourage participation for effective action. 

Visual thinking

We used the video wall as an interactive tool for visual thinking. The technique was beneficial to discuss transformation elements: flexible offices, shared spaces, remote working, digitally-enabled co-working spaces, etc.


Art & nature inspired the concept of Aesthetics; the board identified it as a value of the company’s transformation for the benefit of the community. After a deep and confronting but positive discussion, the CEO agreed to design a project focused on upgrading the public spaces of the owned buildings for aesthetic motivations and using this project to strengthen the company’s image.


At the end of the meeting, the participants shared how the meeting was inspiring new ideas, generated new strategical decisions, supported the CEO in the change management process, and connected better in and out of the boardroom. The moment was as well utilized as the beginning of the preparation of the next meeting, suggesting topics for the next agenda. One of the topics was about new business models based on renting shared office spaces for remote or hybrid working close to the residential areas. 

Communication and image

A few weeks after the GB meeting, ABC Real Estate added a new section about sustainability and community to the company website. The section includes a subsection on the vision of the board, recent decisions, and actions. They primarily focused on the community benefits and how the board promotes aesthetic improvement around the buildings. The publication generated some articles in media and newspapers. 

Governance Transformation


We held two more GB meetings in other inspiring locations during the following year. After 18 months of working together, a boosted governance process led the company to real change and a new strategy. Board meetings were more dynamic and engaging, learning was a continuous process, and the CEO and change management team appreciated the board’s constant strategy support and alignment.