This paper puts forward a discursive devices approach to analysing the linguistic practices involved in the translation of management ideas. The paper draws on empirical data from a study of a quality improvement initiative in a UK public—private partnership. To illustrate our argument, we examine the discursive devices skilfully employed by two change champions during a training session to introduce staff to the new quality regime. Drawing insights from the field of discursive psychology, we analyse how a variety of discursive devices, such as footing, are employed to translate the idea during dialogue between sellers and recipients. We suggest that skilful variation can play a relevant role in the translation of management ideas.