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Elmwood is planning to give control of the consultancy to its 40 staff, provided that they accept the proposal (DW 13 October). Do you think this is a realistic approach to managing a design business and what are the pros and cons?

‘Elmwood’s proposal for democratic employee ownership is a fairly bold one. In parallels, such as FI Group and the John Lewis Partnership, such schemes have delivered major benefits such as staff loyalty, high rates of retention and longevity of service. They also bring additional costs and can slow down the introduction or implementation of new ideas. Elmwood’s management team will undoubtedly face challenges in implementation of the concept, but the potential gains are significant.’

David Jackson, Head of Operations, Nucleus

‘Let me make some simple calculations. Elmwood has 40 staff on average. Fifteen or 20 people are divided into three teams, all accountable to the “partnership group” and endorsed by Elmwood’s board, with meetings every three months, three titles of leadership, ideas, management, and so on. My first comment is, who does the work if everyone is involved in policies to generate ideas and suggestions? Elmwood is devising itself the biggest “nightmare” of how to manage a company. A Machiavellian idea full of chiefs and no indians. It will not work. A small question… what happens when all the partners, (40 of them) decide to leave? A bed of litigation that will be discussed in the various leadership meetings for months to come.’

Marcello Minale, Partner , minale tattersfield

‘I think that Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sand’s move is a typically bold and innovative one, and I wish Elmwood’s staff well with the new approach. I particularly like the remit of the three teams. However, ownership and management should not be confused. It isn’t quite clear whether Elmwood’s staff will jointly own the business or partly own the business and jointly manage it. St Lukes was a pioneering example of co-operative ownership, but not one without its own difficulties. Sand’s initiative does seem at first glance to be an altogether more practical solution. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy enfranchising your people in this kind of way will, I suspect, become increasingly necessary and common practice.’

Piers Schmidt, chief executive, The fourth room

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