Paper presented at the 19th Annual Conference of the Southern Africa Institute for Management Scientists, 19-21 September 2007, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Potential failure is a threat that businesses face during any stage of their life cycle while
turnaround from decline is essential to protect from failure. The scientific literature on
turnaround is however focused on strategy and process. This study’s line of enquiry firstly
reviews the documented research (both theoretical and empirical) encompassing the
phenomenon “turnaround”. The methodology applied is fundamentally based on an in depth
literature review and grounded theory with a focus on classifying the identified relevant
liabilities. Despite every situation’s uniqueness, the results suggest firstly that successful
turnarounds are dependent on overcoming some universal liabilities. A conceptual framework is
then proposed for liabilities associated with the turnaround situation. Secondly the results
suggest that the odds against a successful turnaround are stacked against the turnaround
manager. Successful turnaround depends on an integrated approach overcoming these liabilities.
Finally the skills of the turnaround manager depend heavily on leadership and strategic
management abilities, less on accounting and legal skills that rather suggest the investigation of a
team approach to support the turnaround manager for future research.