Four secret ingredients in Danone’s successful recipe for enterprise-wide transformation are neither food nor beverage.

Staying true to their mission of “bringing health through food to as many people as possible,” this more than 60 billion dollar company wanted to create a fresh strategy to realize this vision. And they are succeeding.

What are these key ingredients?


Transformational leaders invent new futures that are not constrained by past performance, or even current circumstance, and which inspire others to create those futures with them.

Veronique Penchienati, General Manager of Danone Waters, Paris (France) did exactly this at the outset of their transformation. “Let’s leave behind our fears and doubts, and let’s follow our intuition and desires for what we want to be as a company,” she said to the Danone team. (Insigniam Quarterly, v1, issue 2)

Penchienati’s timing in making this declaration was bold.  Danone had just finished successfully defending a hostile takeover and was dealing with the economic recession.

Her strategy was not only to transform Danone Waters, but the entire enterprise.


Key to a successful strategy implementation was to invite participation of all employees and their ideas. Everyone had the opportunity to contribute to the vision—assistants, people in the field, as well as executives.

People from various divisions came together to develop a set of “leadership ingredients”, central values and principles to guide them. These were:

  • Committed
  • Open
  • Doer
  • Empowered

These became known as CODE, an acronym that has shaped their transformation.

“This is the future we want to build. What are the different steps we can take to achieve it together?” Penchienati asked her team. The team answered by formulating transformation projects with multifunctional teams and employees at all levels participating.

By taking on CODE, (being committed, open, doers and empowered), these engaged teams collaborated to provide transformational leadership at all levels—a key ingredient in their strategy implementation. And what were their outcomes?

My next blog will reveal some of those inspiring results as well as highlight the last two ingredients—Innovation and Growth Through Sustainability. What ingredients do you see as central for enterprise-wide transformation?


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