Stress-induced fluidization of a simple yield stress fluid, namely a carbopol microgel, is addressed through extensive rheological measurements coupled to simultaneous temporally and spatially resolved velocimetry. These combined measurements allow us to rule out any bulk fracture-like scenario during the fluidization process such as that suggested in [Caton et al., Rheol Acta, 2008, 47, 601–607]. On the contrary, we observe that the transient regime from solid-like to liquid-like behaviour under a constant shear stress σ successively involves creep deformation, total wall slip, and shear banding before a homogeneous steady state is reached. Interestingly, the total duration τf of this fluidization process scales as τf ∝ 1/(σ − σc)β, where σc stands for the yield stress of the microgel, and β is an exponent which only depends on the microgel properties and not on the gap width or on the boundary conditions. Together with recent experiments under imposed shear rate [Divoux et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., 2010, 104, 208301], this scaling law suggests a route to rationalize the phenomenological Herschel-Bulkley (HB) power-law classically used to describe the steady-state rheology of simple yield stress fluids. In particular, we show that the steady-state HB exponent appears as the ratio of the two fluidization exponents extracted separately from the transient fluidization processes respectively under controlled shear rate and under controlled shear stress.