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Seizing the upside of a downturn

Programme overview

During a downturn, managers focus on the negative - falling demand, tight credit and layoffs. A fixation on bad news obscures a vital truth: The worst of times for the economy as a whole can be the best of times for individual firms to create value.

Firms including Nokia, Samsung, Toyota, and Cisco have emerged from past downturns stronger than they entered them. As competitors retrench they create opportunities for agile companies to seize. Downturns also create an opening to drive fundamental change to position a firm for long-term success.

This two-day programme distils lessons from companies that have thrived in past downturns, and helps managers develop a concrete action plan to seize opportunities and help their organisations not only survive, but thrive in the downturn.

Programme outline

Day 1 examines how companies successfully seize the opportunities in a downturn to survive. We will:

  • Use real world case studies to understand how winners emerged from previous downturns, and identify concrete factors that contributed to their success.
  • Conduct a health-check to assess your organisation's current ability to survive and thrive in a prolonged downturn.
  • Identify opportunities in your industry by creating a set of simple rules to screen the most attractive opportunities that arise in a recession
  • Learn how to build an agile organisation by understanding how managers can transform organisations and culture to combine ruthless cost efficiency with profitable growth 

Day 2 explores how to make trade offs among competing opportunities, lead difficult discussions to make hard choices and avoid common pitfalls. We will: 

  • Assess your portfolio of opportunities to inform hard choices about which deserve scarce resources and which to cut.
  • Discuss how to lead effectively in hard times by structuring the difficult discussions to identify opportunities, make difficult trade-offs, and revise plans as circumstances change.
  • Explore how to overcome obstacles to change by understanding the factors that hinder companies from adapting in changing markets and how to overcome them.
  • Create a concrete plan of action working with a co-consulting partner to synthesize the insights you have gained into a concrete action plan that you can immediately implement.

How you'll benefit

On completing the programme, participants will:

  • Understand the strategies and techniques that have helped organisations survive and thrive in previous downturns.
  • Know how to identify opportunities in a downturn, techniques to lead discussions on changing circumstances and ways to create value
  • Have a clear view on their organisation's ability to weather a prolonged downturn and obstacles that may inhibit change.
  • Be equipped with an action plan that can be immediately implemented to seize opportunities and help their organisation thrive in the downturn.

Faculty profile

Dr Donald Sull is Professor of Management Practice in Strategic and International Management and Faculty Director of Executive Education at London Business School, where he directs an intensive week-long "boot camp" to help senior executives thrive in turbulent markets.

Fortune magazine lists Don as one of the top ten new management gurus you should know.

The Economist identified Sull's theory of active inertia as an idea that shaped business management over the past century, and Fortune listed him as one of ten new management gurus. He has published more than one hundred case studies, book chapters, and articles including several best-selling Harvard Business Review articles.

His earlier books include the award-winning Why Good Companies go Bad and Made in China, which was selected by the Financial Times as one of the eight best business books of 2005. His next book, The Upside of Turbulence comes out in October 2009.

Sull received his bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees from Harvard, where he taught entrepreneurship. He worked as a consultant with McKinsey & Company, and a management-investor with the leveraged buyout firm Clayton & Dubilier prior to entering academia.


Future dates for this programme are to be announced and will be posted on the website shortly.


The programme fee is £2,950.  This includes all tuition, materials, coffee breaks and most meals.

Dates and fees are subject to change.

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To avoid a cancellation or transfer fee, we must receive your cancellation, in writing, no less than six weeks before the programme starts.

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Executive Education

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