Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 157–176 | Cite as

Turning around failing organizations: Insights for educational leaders

Article

Abstract

Purpose In this article, we review the literature from the organizational sciences to develop a grounded narrative of turnaround in education. Approach The approach is a review of literature. We employ an integrated process to unpack and make sense of the turnaround literature from the organizational sciences. We rely on strategies appropriate for document analysis, and borrow analytic strategies (e.g., memoing, coding) employed with interview data. Findings We examine seven defining themes that flow from our review of empirical and theoretical work on organizational recovery in firms, non-educational public agencies, and not-for-profit organizations: (1) not all failing schools are worth saving; (2) focus on leadership; (3) act quickly; (4) diagnose first; (5) emphasize efficiency moves; (6) create a sense of hope; and (7) backward map from the customer and focus on core activities linked to valued outcomes. Implications We posit that the literature on turning around failing organizations in sectors outside of education provides blueprints for recovery activity in failing schools. The implications for turnaround leadership are particularly strong. Originality This is the first systematic effort to mine research in the corporate, not-for-profit, and public sectors to develop insights for turning around failing schools.

Keywords

School turnaround School reform Failing schools 

References

  1. Ackley, S. (1989). Tribune Company. In: M. A. Wahba (Ed.), Crisis management: Cases of success and failure of turnaround strategies (pp. 3–76). New York: Hofstra University Yearbook of Business.Google Scholar
  2. Altman, E. I. (1983). Corporate financial distress: A complete guide to predicting, awarding, and dealing with bankruptcy. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Argenti, J. (1976). Corporate collapse: The causes and symptoms. London: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  4. Armenakis, A. A., & Fredenberger, W. B. (1998). Diagnostic practices of turnaround change agents. In L. W. Foster & D. Ketchen (Eds.), Turnaround research: Past accomplishments and future challenges (pp. 39–55). London: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  5. Arogyaswamy, K., Barker, V. L., & Yasai-Ardekani, M. (1995). Firm turnarounds: An integrative two-stage model. Journal of Management Studies, 32, 493–525. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6486.1995.tb00786.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ashmos, D. P., & Duchon, D. (1998). Participation in the midst of a turnaround: Using connections to make successful adaptations. In L. W. Foster & D. Ketchen (Eds.), Turnaround research: Past accomplishments and future challenges (pp. 223–236). Stamford, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  7. Austin, J. E. (1998). Business leadership lessons from the Cleveland turnaround. California Management Review, 41, 86–106.Google Scholar
  8. Barker, V. L., & Duhaime, I. M. (1997). Strategic change in the turnaround process: Theory and empirical evidence. Strategic Management Journal, 18, 13–38. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0266(199701)18:1<13::AID-SMJ843>3.0.CO;2-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barker, V. L., & Mone, M. A. (1998). The mechanistic structure shift and strategic reorientations in declining firms attempting turnarounds. Human Relations, 51, 1227–1258.Google Scholar
  10. Barker, V. L., & Patterson, P. W. (1996). Top management team tenure and top manager causal attributions at declining firms attempting turnarounds. Group & Organization Management, 21, 304–332. doi:10.1177/1059601196213004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bennis, W., & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: The strategies for taking charge. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  12. Bibeault, D. B. (1982). Corporate turnaround: How managers turn losers into winners. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  13. Billings, R. S., Milburn, T. W., & Schaalman, M. L. (1980). A model of crisis perception: A theoretical and empirical analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 25, 300–316. doi:10.2307/2392456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boyne, G. A. (2004). A ‘3Rs’ strategy for public service turnaround: Retrenchment, repositioning and reorganization. Public Money & Management, 24, 97–103. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9302.2004.00401.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Boyne, G. A. (2006). Service turnaround: Lessons from the private sector? Administration & Society, 38, 365–388. doi:10.1177/0095399705286004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bratton, W., & Knobler, P. (1998). Turnaround: How America’s top cop reversed the crime epidemic. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  17. Breault, P. C. (1993). Case study: Turning around an independent community hospital. In P. Baehr (Ed.), Engineering a hospital turnaround (pp. 197–207). Washington, DC: American Hospital Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Caldwell, D. F., & O’Reilly, C. A. (1982). Responses to failure: The effects of choice and responsibility on impression management. Academy of Management Journal, 25, 121–136. doi:10.2307/256028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cameron, K. (1983). Strategic responses to conditions of decline: Higher education and the private sector. The Journal of Higher Education, 54, 359–380. doi:10.2307/1981902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chaffee, E. E. (1983, March). Turnaround management strategies: The adaptive model and the constructive model. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  21. Chan, P. S. (1993). Managing successful turnarounds: Lessons from global companies. Management Decision, 31, 29–33.Google Scholar
  22. Chapman, C. (2002). Introduction—schools in urban and challenging contexts. School Leadership & Management, 22, 239–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Clausen, A. W. (1990). Strategic issues in managing change: The turnaround in BankAmerica Corporation. California Management Review, 32, 98–105.Google Scholar
  24. Crandall, R. (1995). Turnaround strategies for the small church. Nashville: Abingdon Press.Google Scholar
  25. Cummings, L. L. (1988). Organizational decline from the individual perspective. In K. S. Cameron, R. I. Sutton, & D. A. Whetten (Eds.), Readings in organizational decline: Frameworks, research, and prescriptions (pp. 417–424). Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  26. D’Aunno, T., & Sutton, R. I. (1992). The responses of drug abuse treatment organizations to financial adversity: A partial test of the threat-rigidity thesis. Journal of Management, 18, 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Devos, D., & Hampden-Turner, C. (2002). Recapturing the true mission: Christian Majaard, LEGO. In F. Trompenaars & C. Hampden-Turner (Eds.), 21 leaders for the 21st century (pp. 141–158). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  28. Finkin, E. F. (1985). Company turnaround. The Journal of Business Strategy, 5, 14–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Finkin, E. F. (1987). Successful corporate turnaround: An agenda for board members, financial managers, financial institutions, and other creditors. New York: Quorum.Google Scholar
  30. Ford, J. D. (1983). The management of organizational crises. Business Horizons, 24, 10–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ford, J. D. (1985). The effects of causal attributions of decisions makers’ responses to performance downturns. Academy of Management Review, 10, 770–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ford, J. D., & Baucus, D. A. (1987). Organizational adaptation to performance downturns: An interpretation-based perspective. Academy of Management Review, 12, 366–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Fredenberger, W. B., Lipp, A., & Watson, H. J. (1997). Information requirements of turnaround managers at the beginning of engagements. Journal of Management Information Systems, 13, 167–192.Google Scholar
  34. Gerstner, L. V. (2002). Who says elephants can’t dance: Inside IBM’s historic turnaround. New York: Harper Business.Google Scholar
  35. Goetz, J. P., & LeCompte, M. D. (1984). Ethnography and qualitative design in educational research. Orlando: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  36. Goldstein, A. S. (1988). Corporate comeback: Managing turnaround and troubled companies. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  37. Goldston, M. R. (1992). The turnaround prescription: Repositioning troubled companies. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  38. Goodman, S. J. (1982). How to manage a turnaround: A senior manager’s blueprint for turning an ailing business into a winner. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  39. Green, R., & Hanson, T. (1993). Case study: Turning around a multihospital system. In P. Baehr (Ed.), Engineering a hospital turnaround (pp. 186–195). Washington, DC: American Hospital Publishing.Google Scholar
  40. Greenhalgh, L. (1983). Organizational decline. In S. B. Bacharach (Ed.), Research in the sociology of organizations (pp. 231–276). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  41. Grinyer, P. H., Mayes, D. G., & McKiernan, P. (1988). Sharpbenders: The secrets of unleashing corporate potential. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  42. Grzymala-Busse, A. (2002). The programmatic turnaround of communist successor parties in East Central Europe, 1989–1998. Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 35, 51–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hall, W. K. (1980). Survival strategies in a hostile environment. Harvard Business Review, 58, 75–80.Google Scholar
  44. Hamblin, R. L. (1958). Leadership and crisis. Sociometry, 21, 322–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hambrick, D. C. (1985). Turnaround strategies. In W. D. Guth (Ed.), Handbook of business strategy (pp. 10–32). Boston: Warren, Gorham, & Lamont.Google Scholar
  46. Hambrick, D. C., & D’Aveni, R. A. (1988). Large corporate failures as downward spirals. Administrative Science Quarterly, 33, 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hambrick, D. C., & Schecter, S. M. (1983). Turnaround strategies for mature industrial-product business units. Academy of Management Journal, 26, 231–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hassel, B. C., & Steiner, L. (2003). Starting fresh: A new strategy for responding to chronically low performing schools. Chapel Hill, NC: Public Impact LLC.Google Scholar
  49. Hegde, M. (1982). Western and Indian models of turnaround management. Vikaipia, 7, 289–304.Google Scholar
  50. Hofer, C. (1980). Turnaround strategies. The Journal of Business Strategy, 1, 19–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Khandwalla, P. N. (1983–1984). Turnaround management of mismanaged complex organizations. International Studies of Management & Organizations, 13, 5–41.Google Scholar
  52. Kierulff, H. E. (1981). Turnarounds of entrepreneurial firms. In K. H. Vesper (Ed.), Frontiers of entrepreneurship research. Proceedings of the 1981 Conference on Entrepreneurship at Babson College, Babson Park, MA (pp. 483–495).Google Scholar
  53. Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  54. Kramer, R. (1987). Restructuring and turnaround: Experiences in corporate renewal. Geneva: Business International Research.Google Scholar
  55. Krantz, J. (1985). Group process under conditions of organizational decline. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 21, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Levin, B. (2006). Schools in challenging circumstances: A reflection on what we know and what we need to know. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 17, 399–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lohrke, F. T., & Bedeian, A. G. (1998). Managerial responses to declining performance: Turnaround investment strategies and critical contingencies. In L. W. Foster & D. Ketchen (Eds.), Turnaround research, past accomplishments and future challenges (pp. 3–20). Stamford, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  58. Magee, D. (2003). Turnaround: How Carlos Ghosn rescued Nissan. New York: Harper Business.Google Scholar
  59. Malen, B., & Rice, J. K. (2004). A framework for assessing the impact of education reforms on school capacity: Insights from studies of high-stakes accountability initiatives. Educational Policy, 18, 631–660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Meyers, C. V., & Murphy, J. (2007). Turning around failing schools: An analysis. Journal of School Leadership, 17, 631–659.Google Scholar
  61. Milburn, T. W., Schuler, R. S., & Watman, K. H. (1983a). Organizational crises. Part I: Definition and conceptualization. Human Relations, 36, 1141–1160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Milburn, T. W., Schuler, R. S., & Watman, K. H. (1983b). Organizational crisis. Part II: Strategies and responses. Human Relations, 36, 1161–1180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mirvis, P., Ayas, K., & Roth, G. (2003). To the desert and back: The story of the most dramatic business transformation on record. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  64. Modiano, P. (1987). Made in Great Britain: Lessons from manufacturing turnarounds. European Management Journal, 5, 174–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Mohrman, S. A., & Mohrman, A. M. (1983). Employee involvement in declining organizations. Human Resource Management, 22, 445–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Motroni. H. (1992). A turnaround: Putting the customer first. The Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 7, 29–32.Google Scholar
  67. Murphy, J. (2008a). The place of leadership in turnaround schools: Insights from organizational recovery in the public and private sectors. Journal of Educational Administration, 46, 74–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Murphy, J. (2008b). Turning around failing schools: Policy insights from the corporate, government and non-profit sectors. Educational Policy. doi:10.1177/0895904808320677.Google Scholar
  69. Murphy, J., & Meyers, C. V. (2008). Turning around failing schools: Lessons from the organizational sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.Google Scholar
  70. O’Neill, H. M. (1981). Turnaround strategies in the commercial banking industry. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research.Google Scholar
  71. Paton, R., & Mordaunt, J. (2004). What’s different about public and non-profit ‘turnaround’? Public Money & Management, 24, 209–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Pearce, J. A., & Robbins, D. K. (1993). Toward improved theory and research on business turnaround. Journal of Management, 19, 613–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Pearce, J. A., & Robbins, D. K. (1994a). Entrepreneurial recovery strategies of small market share manufacturers. Journal of Business Venturing, 9, 91–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Pearce, J. A., & Robbins, D. K. (1994b). Retrenchment remains the foundation of business turnaround. Strategic Management Journal, 15, 407–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Pincus, J. D., & Acharya, K. (1988). Employee communication strategies for organizational crises. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 1, 181–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Reich, R. B., & Donahue, J. D. (1985). New deals: The Chrysler revival and the American system. New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
  77. Rindler, M. E. (1987). Managing a hospital turnaround: From crisis to profitability in three challenging years. Chicago: Pluribus Press.Google Scholar
  78. Robbins, D. K., & Pearce, J. A. (1992). Turnaround: Retrenchment and recovery. Strategic Management Journal, 13, 287–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Rosenblatt, Z., Rogers, K. S., & Nord, W. R. (1993). Toward a political framework for flexible management of decline. Organizational Sciences, 4, 76–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Ross, J. E., & Kami, M. J. (1973). Corporate management in crisis: Why the mighty fail. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  81. Schendel, D., Patton, G. R., & Riggs, J. (1976) Corporate turnaround strategies: A study of profit decline and recovery. Journal of General Management, 3, 3–11.Google Scholar
  82. Shelley, S., & Jones, L. (1993). The turnaround process: Management, board, and cultural changes. In R. A. Baehr (Ed.), Engineering a hospital turnaround (pp. 69–81). Washington, DC: American Hospital Publishing.Google Scholar
  83. Shook, R. L. (1990). Turnaround: The new Ford motor company. New York: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  84. Shook, C. L. (1998). Turning around turnaround research: The value of process in advancing knowledge. In L. W. Foster & D. J. Ketchen (Eds.), Advances in applied business strategy (pp. 261–280). Stamford, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  85. Short, J. C., Palmer, T. B., & Stimpert, J. L. (1998). Getting back on track: Performance referents affecting the turnaround process. In L. W. Foster & D. J. Ketchen (Eds.), Advances in applied business strategy (pp. 153–176). Stamford, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  86. Shuchman, M. L., & White, J. S. (1995). The art of the turnaround: How to rescue your troubled business from creditors, predators, and competitors. New York: American Management Association.Google Scholar
  87. Siegel, J. G. (1981). Warning signs of impending business failure and means to counteract such prospective failure. National Public Accountant, 26(4), 9–13.Google Scholar
  88. Silver, A. D. (1992). The turnaround survival guide: Strategies for the company in crises. Dearborn, MI: Dearborn Financial.Google Scholar
  89. Slater, R. (1999). Saving big blue: Leadership lessons and turnaround tactics of IBMs Lou Gerstner. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  90. Slatter, S. (1984). Corporate recovery: A guide to turnaround management. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  91. Sloma, R. S. (1985). The turnaround manager’s handbook. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  92. Smart, C., & Vertinsky, I. (1984). Strategy and the environment: A study of corporate responses to crises. Strategic Management Journal, 5, 199–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Starbuck, W. H., Greve, A., & Hedberg, B. L. T. (1978). Responding to crisis. Journal of Business Administration, 9, 111–137.Google Scholar
  94. Staw, B. M., Sanderlands, L. E., & Dutton, J. E. (1981). Threat-rigidity effects in organizational behavior: A multilevel analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 26, 501–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Stephens, J. E. (1988). Turnaround at the Alabama rehabilitation agency. Public Productivity Review, 11, 67–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Stewart, J. (1984). Managing a successful business turnaround. New York: American Management Associates.Google Scholar
  97. Stopford, J. M., & Baden-Fuller, C. (1990). Corporate rejuvenation. Journal of Management Studies, 27, 399–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Sumeren, M. V. (1993). Cost reduction and quality improvement. In R. A. Baehr (Ed.), Engineering a hospital turnaround (pp. 111–123). Washington, DC: American Hospital Publishing.Google Scholar
  99. Sutton, R. I. (1990). Organizational decline processes: A social psychological perspective. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cummings (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (pp. 205–253). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  100. Trompenaars, F., & Hampden-Turner, C. (2002). Remedy for a turnaround: Phillippe Bourguignon, Club Med. In F. Trompenaars & C. Hampden-Turner (Eds.), 21 leaders for the 21st century (pp. 121–139). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  101. Tushman, M. L., & Romanelli, E. (1985). Organizational evolution: A metamorphosis model of convergence and reorientation. In L. L. Cummings & B. M. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (pp. 171–222). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  102. Umbreit, W. T. (1996). Fairmont Hotels’ turnaround strategy. Cornell Hotel & Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 37, 50–57.Google Scholar
  103. Walshe, K., Harvey, G., Hyde, P., & Pandit, N. (2004). Organizational failure and turnaround: Lessons from public services from the for-profit sector. Public Money & Management, 24, 201–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Weitzel, W., & Jonsson, F. (1989). Decline in organizations: A literature integration and extension. Administrative Science Quarterly, 34, 91–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Whetten, D. A. (1988). Sources, responses, and effects of organizational decline. In K. S. Cameron, R. I. Sutton, & D. A. Whetten (Eds.), Readings in organizational decline: Frameworks, research, and prescriptions (pp. 151–174). Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  106. Wong, K. K., & Shen, F. X. (2003). Measuring the effectiveness of city and state takeover as a school reform strategy. Peabody Journal of Education, 78, 89–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Yates, B. (1983). The decline and fall of the American automobile industry. New York: Empire Books.Google Scholar
  108. Yukl, G. (2002). Leadership in organizations (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  109. Zimmerman, F. M. (1991). The turnaround experience: Real-world lessons in revitalizing corporations. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Peabody CollegeVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations