Pulling off the comeback: Shrink, expand, neither, both?

Michael Braun, Scott Latham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In this paper, the authors aim to build a prescriptive framework to help managers in turning around their ailing organizations. Their framework focuses on the extent of contractionary and expansionary initiatives needed to rebuild long-term competitive advantage. They make the case that managers engaging in a pro-active and balanced approach to scaling down and growing their organizations can boost the success of their recovery efforts. Design/methodology/approach: The authors build their framework based on academic research on corporate turnarounds, their scholarly work on corporate restructuring, and their combined experiences and observations in industry. Their framework proposes four possible outcomes of the turnaround process: comeback, adrift, running-on-empty, and collapse. They provide examples to describe each outcome. Findings: The authors' framework suggests that the interaction between two restructuring actions - retrenchment and repositioning - determines the outcome of corporate turnarounds. By overemphasizing downsizing, managers fail to jumpstart entrepreneurial growth that can propel the firm towards long-term competitive advantage. Similarly, stresses arising from excessive growth programs can quickly drain firm resources. As such, all managers need to assess the alignment between downsizing efforts and growth-oriented initiatives. By bringing awareness to the interdependency between retrenchment and repositioning, the authors' framework can guide managers in making necessary adjustments on the way to fixing their organization. Originality/value: Retrenchment and repositioning represent the means available to managers attempting corporate turnaround. However, corporate turnarounds often fail due to an overemphasis on one phase of the restructuring process, at the expense of the other. This framework points to the delicate retrenchment-repositioning required to achieve successful turnaround.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Business Strategy
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Corporate turnaround
  • Organizational restructuring
  • Repositioning
  • Retrenchment
  • Turnarounds


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