Unlocking Leadership: Novozymes’ Journey to Unlock Growth

Unlocking Leadership: Novozymes’ Journey to Unlock Growth

Unlocking Leadership: Novozymes’ Journey to Unlock Growth

Novozymes is on a mission to unlock growth. But how do you preserve the essentials of a thriving culture while nurturing change and transformation to create a profitable business? 

As a company powered by biotech, where nature meets engineering, Novozymes found inspiration for their approach to meaningful leadership in how a flock of birds navigates together toward their destination. 

Nicolai E. E. Iversen


Ebba Hansen


Fenja Todte



Novozymes, a biotech leader, aimed to preserve its culture while nurturing change to create a profitable business amid rapid industry changes and competitive pressures.


The challenge was to translate the new ‘Unlock Growth’ strategy into actionable leadership behaviors that would ensure unity and agility across the organization globally, maintaining core values while driving growth.


Voluntās and Novozymes developed the ‘Unlocking Leadership’ program, which defined core leadership capabilities necessary for strategy success. The program included data-driven tools like a 360-degree feedback system and leadership training modules, which aligned with the company’s values and growth objectives, ensuring leaders at all levels could execute the strategy effectively.


Meaning in Madness?

Novozymes exists to find biological answers for better lives in a growing world. With increasing populations, fundamental changes in nutritional habits, and protein demands that far exceed the practices of today, the world is screaming for sustainable solutions.

But while Novozymes has become a leader in the industry, the company has for consecutive years struggled to grow in an increasingly competitive market. To beat the trend of some years without growth, the company launched its strategy ‘Unlock Growth’ under the leadership of new CEO Ester Baiget. But to make the strategy move from paper to reality, one particular issue needed to be addressed.  

“As much as we believed in the direction of the strategy, we actually put a dedicated must-win battle into it, that we labeled ‘succeeding with the strategy’,” Marianne Bie Frydendahl explains.


“It may sound redundant or even borderline foolish, but it serves as a constant, tangible reminder to always think about how to execute. And with the number one driver of succeeding with the strategy being a unified leadership, we gave birth to our global program: Unlocking Leadership to Unlock Growth.”


Yearly Oxygen 
DKKb 17,553 (2022)

Human beings 

To find biological answers for better lives in a growing world


Unlocking Leadership

The first step in the program was to translate the strategy into the core leadership capabilities needed to deliver on the strategy, defining which behavior and attributes from the existing culture to keep and which to evolve.

One core theme across the new leadership framework was unity. 

In Novozymes, we are often inspired by the attributes of rapid animals like cheetahs or falcons. But as leaders of Novozymes, we need to be in formation, in unity, like the birds who fly side-by-side in the hundreds or thousands. 

It is fascinating how they can constantly change shape and direction without becoming apart. By flying together, they can fly longer. Science tells us that every bird is attentive not only to its neighbours in the flock but also to the 6-7 birds around them – some close, some far away. In many ways, they think end-to-end, they think holistically, they think as one enterprise. In Novozymes, we are privileged by having good leaders. But we needed to support them to succeed as one, in flying even closer together,” Marianne Bie Frydendahl.

“As much as we believed in the direction of the strategy, we actually put a dedicated must-win battle into it, that we labelled ‘succeeding with the strategy”

Marianne Bie Frydendahl
Vice President, People & Organization

In collaboration with Voluntās, each leadership capability was broken down into globally aligned, measurable behavior so that three distinct traits accompanied each of the four capabilities (See purple box below). As such, the capabilities outlined the specific criteria every leader, from CEO to team leader, from all functions and markets, should navigate by to contribute to better unity. 

“We are not changing our purpose. We do not compromise our values or our sustainability pledge. But we need to constantly stay in formation, change shape and direction together when needed to protect our core and translate our purpose into growth in our top line. This agility requires four leadership capabilities that we all share and aspire to live up to. Together, they define what good leadership looks like for us – to unlock growth,” Marianne Bie Frydendahl.


So far

But with limited time and resources, how do you make all leaders relate to the same leadership capabilities at more or less the same time in a meaningful manner? The recipe for Novozymes consisted of four elements. 

First, make it simple and tangible. Unlocking Leadership was tied closely to existing concepts, making it clear how it is a natural lever for the already known strategy and a leadership-specific extension of the organizational values. 

Second, “toolify” it. “Unlocking Leadership” was translated into a data-driven 360-degree feedback tool, a revised template for the Individual Development Plan, and specific training modules targeting each leadership capability. 

Third, focus on facilitating meaningful conversations between human beings. Not trying to control every single outcome with rigorous supervision but instead giving leaders the means and inspiration to have good, genuine conversations, weaving the thriving and self-awareness of the individual into the needs and development of the organization. And then trusting them to apply the global framework locally how it makes sense to their context and team. 

Over the course of a year, 583 leaders at Novozymes have received 360-degree feedback through “Unlocking Leadership,” with 95 percent receiving in-person feedback on the insights. 82 percent perceived it as meaningful and valuable, and 73 percent anchored specific learnings into development plans. 

“It works, because it is concrete”, Marianne Bie Frydendahl explains. “It tells us what we need to do, using fewer words and leaving little room for confusion, creating a common language for good leadership and a few impactful tools to support it,” Marianne Bie Frydendahl.

And fourth? Humor. Using a bit of irony generates smiles and laughter, fostering a sense of belonging and humanness. “We expect a lot from our leaders. They need to be good people managers, be on top of their function, and navigate the many changes we are making in a competing business landscape, while coping with the uncertainty of an incoming merger. So, when we introduce new global initiatives, we need to be incredibly mindful of balancing the need for unity with respect for the individual context. We are all human, so we decided to create a small sit-com-like film, where we exposed all the worst-practice examples of how not to conduct development conversations to make it more fun and engaging and less corporate,” Marianne Bie Frydendahl.


Movie to launch individual development plans

While Voluntās were responsible for the directing, filming, and editing, the movie consisted of Novozymes staff as actors giving a human touch to an essential topic. 

Scenes, characters, and punchlines were later repurposed as GIFs and images to serve as a reminder to prioritize meaningful conversations. Knowing that in this year’s Meaningfulness at Work report, the lowest scoring item globally was “my leader takes time to ask how I am doing both professionally and personally, and I feel that he/she listens and takes action,” then nothing is more important to improve our sense of meaning and belonging in the workplace than exactly that. 

In the words of Marianne Bie Frydendahl, “A thriving business needs a thriving organization and vice versa. While we are far from perfect, I am proud of what we have achieved with Unlocking Leadership and how our leaders across the globe have used it to drive change and follow through, all while leading for purpose and with a human touch. It shows that it is here to stay.” 

Forwarding Organizational DNA: Sustaining Culture Amidst Rapid Growth

Forwarding Organizational DNA: Sustaining Culture Amidst Rapid Growth

Forwarding Organizational DNA: Sustaining Culture Amidst Rapid Growth

Scan Global Logistics (SGL) has successfully preserved its organizational DNA and fostered a culture of meaningfulness even amidst substantial growth.

But it takes continued priority, consistency, and processes to keep forwarding the organization’s unique DNA to new recruits, new acquisitions, new leaders, and the organization at large. 

Nicolai E. E. Iversen


Constanca Pinto Moura


Juraj Kiljon Hanke



Scan Global Logistics (SGL) experienced rapid expansion, growing its workforce by nearly 200% and increasing annual revenue significantly. This growth presented challenges in maintaining its unique organizational culture.


The primary challenge was preserving the foundational DNA of SGL—characterized by fun, integrity, respect, and entrepreneurship—despite rapid scaling, global expansion, and integrating multiple acquisitions annually.


Voluntās helped SGL implement a robust cultural due diligence process that included scrutinizing every step of the employee journey. This approach ensured that new hires and leadership aligned with SGL’s core values. The use of data-driven tools and regular leadership assessments enabled SGL to continuously promote and reinforce its culture, achieving a high Meaningful Work Quotient (MWQ) score and retaining a positive organizational environment.


Making culture a little less complicated

It’s been almost five years since the executive management team sat around a table, each taking turns expressing why they work at SGL and what makes the culture unique.

It was the first of many discussions, trying to grasp the essence of the rapidly growing forwarder. They knew that what they were part of was special. But they did not know exactly how to express it. More colleagues from across the globe joined the conversation. Customers and suppliers were invited to give their honest feedback. And then, during a leadership workshop in rural parts of Denmark, a wrinkled piece of paper was circulated. “We make the world a little less complicated,” it read. That is why SGL exists. But how? By always bringing a human approach to everyone, everywhere. An approach that, in the weeks and months that followed, was captured in Fun, Integrity, Respect, and, not least, Entrepreneurship. 

Easier said than done, of course. But fast forward to 2023, and SGL has expanded its workforce by almost 200 percent, achieved an annual average revenue growth of 33 percent to reach USD 3,506 billion, with a presence in more than 45 countries across all inhabited continents. What was an anticipated future became reality – and then some! Adding the impact of a global pandemic and the integration of 5-7 acquisitions per year, you would think that the organizational culture would suffer. 

Globally, as documented by Voluntās, work in the world outside SGL became significantly less meaningful. The logistics industry, in particular, had a hard time with disrupted supply chains trying to catch up with inflated demand. But in SGL, something different happened.

During 2020 and 2021, SGL not only improved their MWQ score from 75 to 77 but also stayed an impressive 15 percent above the global logistics benchmark. While that seemed almost too good to be true, 2022 resulted in the highest Meaningful Work Quotient (MWQ) ever documented for a company of its size, with SGL further improving by 3 percent, reaching a total score of 80.

“We’ve always had a clear intuition that SGL is a meaningful place to work,” Mads Drejer, Global COO & CCO, explains.

“But being clear on our DNA has enabled us to be even better at promoting the right behavior, attracting the right people, and anchoring who we strive to be in all corners and processes of the company. This is a continuous journey that never ends, and while we remain our biggest skeptics, we will try our best to create a meaningful culture and constantly develop the right tools and structures to remind us about who we want to become.”


Yearly Oxygen 
USDb 3,506 (2022)

Human beings


Making the world a little less complicated


Scrutinizing every step of the employee journey

According to Mads Drejer, structure and tools are essential in scaling a culture during extreme growth. Getting data-driven insights into how meaningful it is to work for SGL is one thing.

But SGL went further to look at every single step of the employee journey and examine how each step, each process, could be tweaked to amplify the right culture. Starting with the leaders, SGL’s DNA was translated into tangible behavior for all leaders to get recurring feedback on their performance according to the company’s four virtues. The results were clear. The leaders performing well in their 360-degree leadership assessments also had a 53 percent higher MWQ-score in their teams and a 23 percent better performance on retention.

SGL then focused on their recruitment process and started assessing all potential candidates for leadership positions on their self-awareness and cultural fit to SGL. Finally, SGL has installed a strong focus on culture into the due diligence process for all potential M&A targets.

“We don’t expect our leaders to be perfect, but they need to be motivated to create a meaningful workplace”

Mads Drejer
Global COO & CCO

“SGL runs on the energy of good people. When they grow, we grow. This is where our organic growth comes from, and it is what unlocks the synergies and multiplier effect in our acquired growth. We don’t expect our leaders to be perfect, but they need to be motivated to create a meaningful workplace. This starts already before we let people in through our doors. Whether through recruitment or acquisition, we have invested in a rigorous process, conducting a cultural due diligence on every individual and M&A target to qualify how they fit into our DNA and culture. Culture might have an appetite for strategy, but nothing eats culture like poor leadership, and we will never realize our commercial potential without the right leaders who share our visions and virtues,” Mads Drejer, Global COO & CCO.

VISION 1-3-5:

Towards 2027 

ast year, SGL launched its Vision 2027. 170 leaders from across the globe were gathered in the middle of a forest for a three-day festival to kick it off. Labeled 1-3-5, it aims to unite SGL’s cultural DNA with its commercial ambitions. ‘1’ points to the aspiration of becoming the most purpose-driven and meaningful company in the logistics industry. For SGL, culture and business are fundamentally viewed as one and the same from the core belief that by growing its people, it grows its business. ‘3’ points to the aspiration of reaching the best 3rd in the logistics industry on earnings.

For SGL to realize its potential, earnings function as financial oxygen to ensure a strong and sustainable business with the appropriate attention and discipline to maximize value. ‘5’ points to the aspiration of achieving a total USD +5 billion in revenue. The rationale, according to SGL, is that the more it grows in size and footprint, the bigger an impact it can have on the world to uncomplicate logistics. In the spring of 2023, SGL welcomed CVC Capital Partners as new majority owners as part of entering the next phase of the company’s growth. 

“As much as we enjoy the prospect of making SGL a success in financial terms, that would be worth absolutely nothing to us if it was not achieved while having fun along the way,

paying respect to the people who work hard every day, being entrepreneurial in the market and having the integrity

with us to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and be proud of what we do. We are now a USD 3bn company,

but without continuously mastering our DNA and human approach, our ‘1’, we will never achieve ‘3’ or ‘5’. With new

owners on board and armed with humbleness, we remain committed to becoming the most purpose-driven and meaningful company in the logistics industry. 

One shipment at a time,” Mads Drejer, Global COO 

& CCO.

How to create a meaningful place to work during extreme growth?

How to create a meaningful place to work during extreme growth?

How to create a meaningful place to work during extreme growth?

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB), a subsidiary of Fujifilm, and a global contract manufacturer in the life sciences sector, is undergoing a multifold transformation. Challenging the norms of the industry, FDB wants to demonstrate that the best way to control their rapid expansion is not by installing rigorous systems, it is by installing trust between humans.

Nicolai E. E. Iversen


Ebba Hansen


Carl Emil Zacho Böye



Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB), a global leader in contract manufacturing for the life sciences sector, is undergoing significant transformation. Led by CEO Lars Petersen, FDB aims to redefine industry standards by emphasizing human-centric culture and leadership rather than relying solely on traditional rigorous systems and processes.


FDB faces the complex challenge of scaling its operations and revenue significantly while maintaining a meaningful and empowering work culture. The company aims to quintuple its revenue from $1.3 billion to $5 billion by 2030, an ambitious goal that necessitates massive operational and cultural shifts. The primary challenge lies in balancing rapid growth with fostering a workplace environment that prioritizes trust, transparency, and psychological safety, moving away from traditional hierarchical and process-heavy management styles.


FDB has adopted a revolutionary approach by embedding trust and human sensibility at the core of its operations. The company has eliminated extensive systems and bureaucratic processes, instead promoting a culture where employees are empowered and trusted. This philosophy is encapsulated in their “People Fundamentals,” which guide behavior and interactions within the organization. Leadership development at FDB focuses on emotional intelligence, active listening, and fostering a strong sense of purpose and belonging among employees. This transformation is supported by substantial training programs and events dedicated to cultivating trust and open dialogue among leaders. This shift aims to create a sustainable balance between growth and maintaining a meaningful work environment, ultimately positioning FDB as a trusted partner in the life sciences industry.


Meaning in Madness?

Manufacturing with a Purpose

From DNA sequencing to the final medication product packaged and delivered into the hands of patients, FDB is an end-to-end contract drug manufacturer. From early stage to large-scale production, they support the full lifecycle of biologics development by scaling the manufacturing process. As this year’s Meaningfulness at Work study revealed, both manufacturing (72) and pharmaceuticals (71) are industries facing challenges in meaningfulness at work, scoring below the average (74).

With FDB being an end-to-end manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, they find themselves in a placewhere they need to make an extra effort to create meaningfulness at work among employees. According to President & CEO Lars Petersen, the purpose potential is clear:

“What especially gets me up in the morning is the transformation I believe is so fundamental. I actually do believe that we are a big part of transforming the entire industry where the cost of drugs needs to be lower and where the speed of getting drugs to patients needs to be faster. This requires that we move beyond a contractual, transactional model and instead prove ourselves as a trusted partner to our customers, becoming an integral part of the ecosystem. A partner for life with unprecedented delivery.”


Yearly Oxygen
USDb 1.3 (2023)

Human beings

To be the leading and most trusted global Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization in the biopharmaceutical industry.


Being A ‘People First’ Company

In the midst of an $8 billion investment plan, FDB is aiming to quadrupling their revenue by 2030 – from 6 large-scale bioreactors to 36. In a world that is renowned for process engineering, tight controlling, and clear chains of command, it would naturally also permeate the governance, organization, and culture of the company. Meticulously cascading targets. Calibrating bonuses with individual performance reviews. Documenting standard decision-making processes. Instead, FDB has made a conscious effort to get rid of all such measures to pave the way for limitless trust, empowerment, and ownership.

“We are trying to keep systems and processes to an efficient minimum to make sure people are the center in everything we do,” Lars Petersen explains.

“Some say that we are building a ‘hippie’ culture. But this is simply about creating a culture of trust, where transparency, being yourself and having psychological safety enables people to speak up at any given moment and be okay with making mistakes as long as we learn from them. Being in a way where people can take ownership, because you know you are trusted and empowered if you do so.”

While production processes and quality assurance as a drug manufacturer is naturally managed with extreme rigor, the underlying assumption is that the human potential of the organization – the people – is best realized by systematically minimizing processes, rules, and bureaucracy.

This philosophy is written into 9 People Fundamentals, which sets the tone and direction for how everyone is expected to show up, interact, and lead. “We lead people – and manage processes”, as one of them reads, continued by “We bring our full selves to work”. The People Fundamentals, however, are not implemented through an extensive roadmap or follow-up system. There are activities and tools, yes, but the primary objective is to create a continuous conversation and mindset around how the right growth can be balanced with the right culture.

Not as opposites, as either-or, but constantly weaving them together to never settle for the ordinary, allowing a touch of madness in pursuing something unprecedented, but without decaying into chaos or anarchy. Always balancing the meaningful and the meaningless.


Followership above Force

This balancing act requires training. Training in some of the muscles that are often overlooked or under-stimulated in the traditional leadership gym. When the philosophy is about trust, ownership, and empowerment, the mastery required rhymes more with active listening, human sensibility, and emotional intelligence than any other managerial disciplines. To create meaning for people in their work, leadership in itself is the least important driver. In other words, it is not how you as an individual leader perform that creates a meaningful working environment – it is how you as a leader can facilitate a strong sense of purpose, belonging, and personal growth. This, however, breaks with some of the truths many leaders who come to FDB are born and raised to believe in.

“Don’t come in here with the typical mindset of a leader saying, ‘I will deliver in 100 days.’ Forget about delivery. Try to relate to people, try to understand the culture before you even think about delivering anything. And to be honest, eight out of ten of our leaders are going through quite a journey to reconfigure. We even have leaders saying that they had to be broken down completely and rebuilt before they really understood what was going on. We invest that much in our journey, and we are fully aware that this might not be for everyone,” Lars Petersen says.

“We try to deconstruct some of these myths and false truths about leadership to champion a culture where leaders serve not just the business objectives but the human spirit in the organization. This sometimes also entails eradicating inflated egos to foster an environment of true team spirit as opposed to solo climbing the career ladder.”

To manifest this focus, FDB in February brought together more than 100 leaders from across the globe. The full event was dedicated to talking exclusively about strategy, leadership, and culture – not least which habits, norms, or systems the leadership community needs to say goodbye to in order to take the next quantum leap.

“We spent 75% of our time discussing our cultural DNA and how to cultivate trust among our leaders and teams. We asked our leaders upfront to submit all their hopes and concerns to facilitate an open dialogue about what excites us about our growth journey, but also what makes us worried. This is fundamental to build trust,” Petersen shares.

Did the leaders then embrace this focus? Or did they leave thinking it was a complete waste of time? Looking at the impact, the numbers tell a quite convincing story. After the event, FDB were able to track an improvement of 9% in how much the leaders believe in the strategic direction with both their hearts and minds, while improving the level of optimism around FDB’s future by 10% – shortterm as well as long-term. Further, the level of trust in the organization at large increased by 8%. The event itself was rated 9.17 on a 10-point scale – a testament to the appreciation of having time to reflect and connect on how to humanize the culture and leadership.

Nine People Fundamentals at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies

We foster psychological safety

We bring our full selves to work

We seek attitude when we hire & promote

We assume trust & expect ownership

We value teams over hierarchy

We support individual growth through empowerment

We lead people & manage processes

We lead through purpose & meaning

We lead for the future