Analysis of the total quality management (TQM) and related literature leads to the conclusion that firms introduce TQM principles and practices using different overall approaches. It is argued in this paper that these approaches or modes can be characterised as strategic, philosophical, selective adoption and continuous improvement. The purpose of the paper is to examine the applicability of this taxonomy in a number of companies actually introducing elements of TQM. The research presented is based on one segment of the Irish automotive component manufacturing industry, comprising five firms, which was examined using a case‐study design. The empirical data includes general information from preliminary interviews within academia, consultancy and government agencies, as well as particular, in‐company interviews and plant tours. The findings suggest that firms can have both a main and a subsidiary approach to introducing TQM and similar practices, and that these approaches may relate to internal and external aspects of firm relationships.
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