Creating opportunities in the face of an environmental jolt: Exploring turnaround strategizing practices within large Irish construction contractors

Paul Tansey*, John Spillane, Tara Brooks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
519 Downloads (Pure)


The sudden change in environmental munificence level in the construction sector during the period 2007 – 2015 provides a natural experiment to investigate strategic and operating actions of firms, particularly during an environmental jolt. In such a turnaround scenario, even firms that accumulate valuable assets or position themselves in nascent and emerging markets, may still not be doing enough to support a significant competitive advantage. Statistics on business failures corroborate that neither academics nor practitioners have succeeded in guiding strategic action during periods of environmental jolt, where the munificence level falls precipitously. Despite the recent increase of turnaround research in the general management domain, its use in the construction management realm remains underexplored; hence the emergence of this topic. To address this research gap, five exploratory case studies of an ongoing PhD study were used to examine the turnaround strategies of construction contractors during a period of economic contraction and growth. The main pattern of findings show that, although retrenchment is often considered to be a short-term strategy, this is clearly not the case with the majority of the contractors; whom maintained this strategy for 6-7 years. During the same period, the turnaround process shifted towards objectives of growth and development, through new markets and increased market penetration, thus suggesting that construction firms have relatively low barriers to entry and are mobile in order to survive. The case studies further suggest that strategic and operational actions resonate quite well with contemporary practice-based approaches to strategy making. The findings provide valuable assistance for construction contractors in dealing with organisational decline and in developing a successful turnaround response. Additionally, this research provides an axiom for academic researchers in their future studies in this field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-241
JournalConstruction Management Economics
Issue number4
Early online date29 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2017


  • Contemporary strategy
  • organisational decline
  • organisational turnaround
  • retrenchment
  • strategy


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