Whilst research on the content of successful turnaround strategies (‘what to do’) is common, research on the process by which such strategies are implemented (‘how to do it’) is rare. This paper attempts to redress this imbalance by developing a turnaround stages framework and then testing this framework against the case of IBM UK which experienced a now celebrated turnaround over the period 1988–1997. The framework proposes that successful turnarounds follow a generic five stage sequence characterised by performance decline that leads to a period of crisis which triggers radical change. The specifics of this radical change are embodied in a formal turnaround plan that, at an abstract level, and in a manner of taking one step back in order to take two steps forward, involves firstly emphasising retrenchment to achieve stability and subsequently shifting the emphasis towards profitable growth. When tested against the case of IBM UK, the framework is found to be robust and stable.