Providing a big, hairy, audacious goal to frame dialogue for a constructive M&A

About Geodis
The client challenge

Geodis Wilson is part of the French Geodis Group, with SNCF – the French railroad company – as its main shareholder.

With 26,000 employees in a network spanning 120 countries, the Geodis Group ranks among Europe’s top five transport and logistics companies. Geodis Wilson is the result of the merger between Geodis Overseas, the air and sea freight arm of the Geodis Group, Dutch TNT Freight Management, formerly known as Wilson Logistics, a 164-year-old company with Scandinavian roots and most recently Rohde & Liesenfeld. Geodis Wilson has inherited the best of several worlds: a global network, a drive for growth, the desire to develop services that work, and a ‘can-do’ mentality when partnered with customers.

The client challenge

In 2007 the newly appointed CEO of Geodis Wilson wanted to ensure a smooth integration among all the nationalities working in the company (at least 30), trying to prevent conflicts and setbacks along the way to achieving his ambitious goals.

He invited us to give a presentation to the top 50 managers about the typical characteristics of French culture and how it would affect the further internationalization of the organization. We refused the offer, because it would jeopardise the integration process by initiating all kinds of stereotypes.

Our approach to Mergers & Acquisitions


We chose to present the differences amongst the variety of corporate cultures with our Organisation Value Profiler (OVP) and Personal Value Profiler (PVP). The PVP looks at the personal values of the participants and it revealed much more congruence than the separate corporate cultural profiles of the organisations involved (from our OVP). This was the basis for the further support we offered some three months later in Amsterdam exclusively with the new board.


Cultural dilemmas were captured by analysis OVP and PVP and the dilemma scan revealed business dilemmas. Dilemma formulation showed respect for all involved.


Using the group dialogue system, we asked the top 250 to discuss what they liked about the current strategic goals and how they could be improved. This allowed engagement for people from all the merged companies to be involved. The process ended with a re-stated “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG), that was perceived to have been co-created by the top 250. The meeting concluded with agreement on a roadmap of how the BHAG could be used as a source of inspiration for the development of the values and purpose of the Geodis-Wilson freight division.


In this phase, we involved the board of Geodis Wilson (six people, two Swedish, two Dutch, one French and one British) in a one day program to craft the first draft of a key purpose, core values and a BHAG. The board went out in three (different) pairs in three rounds representing different companies. After each round there was an animated discussion about the different viewpoints around the bold mission. The first draft BHAG was formulated as: Geodis Wilson wants to be recognised as the best quality provider among peers, customers and employees. In the same session the values and purpose were defined as supporting the accomplishment of the first draft BHAG.

This first draft was taken to the top 25 (extended board including country heads) who meet quarterly. They validated the first draft of the BHAG in preparation for the top 250 meeting. That meeting validated a similar BHAG: Geodis Wilson is recognised as the best freight management service provider by customers, suppliers and employees.