When Danone wanted to train a new generation of leaders to expand its operations successfully and ethically and to capture more market share, it turned to IESE for a custom program.
Danone knew people development was key: creating the next generation of leaders with a deeper understanding of the current business environment and with strong leadership skills. According to Thierry Bonetto, Group Learning Director and Global Head of the Danone Academy, the Danone Culture emphasizes empowerment and decentralization at country level, autonomy and entrepreneurship, networking and a focus on people. Tasked with developing the leadership and management competencies of the company’s established and emerging executives, Bonetto oversees the programs which (hopefully) ensure that each individual develops as a leader, while comprehending, and contributing to, the integrity of the Danone Culture across functions, CBUs, and geographies.
In 2012 Bonetto started Danone Academy’s New Gen Leaders program. Targeted at high potential executives – identified by their line managers and regional HR directors – the program aims to ferment the Danone Culture among the next generation of leaders.
Danone’s Leadership and Management Learning Map clearly identifies Next Gen Leaders’ place within the broader picture, just as the program itself establishes their individual context for participants. A key learning outcome for the planned course of studies would be to support leaders transitioning beyond specialist management in particular functions and into higher corporate positions – to create a pipeline of senior leaders.
According to Bonetto, the final choice of academic partner was determined by the school’s
- Capacity for flexibility and customisation;
- Creativity and diversity of learning approaches;
- Focus on the practical – participants doing, exploring, networking and learning from each other;
- Adaptability to regional context.
For executives in every business and sector, networking opportunities are a significant soft benefit accrued from attending courses, conferences and exhibitions. Creating and building relationships, face to face, provides not only stimulation, but also insight into methods and approaches which might otherwise be missed. Without carefully crafted, centrally-led executive education programs (such as Next Gen Leaders) Danone’s deliberately decentralised approach to global hegemony might become a blueprint for the siloing of knowledge and experience.
Bonetto’s final choice of an academic partner, from a short list of five, therefore depended on the chosen school’s global reach. IESE, with campuses in Barcelona, Madrid and New York, as well as teaching facilities in Munich and Sao Paulo, first came into prominence in 1964 by launching Europe’s first two-year MBA program (under the guidance of the Harvard Business School). With the opening of its state-of-the-art New York building in midtown Manhattan in April 2010, IESE became the first European business school to establish permanent operations in the US. IESE established an academic framework to carry the Danone Culture to the core of Next Gen’s content and delivery. Xavier OIiver, a senior advertising and marketing professional, having sat on the board of global advertising agency BBDO and chaired the company’s Spanish division, is also a marketing professor at IESE – and academic director of this program. “The overarching aim was simple: to develop leadership and management competencies in order to contribute to business growth in line with the Danone Culture while raising the overall HR value of future leaders. The way IESE enables this development to occur is through a ‘think-feel-do’ learning approach” says Oliver. These aims would be mapped across Danone’s Myself / My Team / My Business / MySociety Model, in which participants are encouraged to place themselves, and their work, in a wider context.
Danone / Dannon is a name familiar to shoppers the world over. Just as once kings and emperors sought to homogenize administrations in far-flung lands, balancing central control with local responsiveness to circumstance, so too must Danone’s leaders maintain the link between their multinational food chain with the individual consumer’s weekly grocery shop. In addition to a certificate of completion, each participant leaves the IESE/Danone program with a valuable network of colleagues and collaborators – contacts which will enable them to support both the growth and integrity of the Danone Culture