Arthur D. Little Europe

THE SCOOP

Mold-breaker

Founded in Boston in 1886, Arthur D. Little lays claim to the dual titles of first and oldest management consultancy in the world.  The pioneering spirit of the founder who lent the firm its name is the stuff of legend, as is the firm's continued survival, despite a serious restructuring that led to its being acquired by France's Altran Technologies in 2002.  So while Arthur D. Little himself may be long gone, the firm that bears his name is still going strong.  The 1,000-plus consultants it employs today find themselves spread across 30 countries, offering tailored services to clients in industries including automotive, chemical, energy and utilities, financial services, health care/life sciences, manufacturing, TIME (telecommunications, information technology, media and electronics), consumer goods, private equity and transportation.  The company also serves state and federal agencies, as well as foreign governments.

Founding fathers

Arthur Dehon Little was only half of the partnership of chemists that founded the firm.  The other half was his fellow MIT student Roger Griffin, and together the pair set up as researchers for hire, pioneering the concept of process improvement through outsourcing research.  Originally called Griffin and Little, the name was changed following Griffin's untimely death in 1893, when an experiment went awry.

As his firm grew in size and capability over the years, Little developed something of a genius for eye-catching PR stunts, which served no small role in increasing the firm's visibility and, thus, client base.  Among the stunts designed to prove Little's maxim of "Who says it can't be done?" were Little literally turning a sow's ear into a silk purse, as well as a competition among a group of staff in the 1970s to make a lead balloon fly-both of which were achieved to considerable acclaim.

Those feats brought some visibility to the company, underscoring the unusual measures it was prepared to take to get the job done, and establishing Little as a leading name in the field by the 1960s and a reputation it guards to this day.  "Arthur D. Little may not be the easiest global firm to manage, but it will never become one of the 'grey' consulting firms where everyone gets brainwashed into behaving the same way and delivering the same products-unthinkable."  So wrote Rick Eager, UK Managing Director of ADL, in a 2006 overview of the firm's history.  "The firm's great strength is its people and its culture.  More Vivienne Westwood than Chanel-vive la différence!"

After the boom

After a corporate restructuring in 2002, Arthur D. Little sold off parts of its business (and reduced its workforce by almost half).  Altran Technologies bought the core management consulting business, as well as the Arthur D. Little name.  This change led, perhaps unintentionally, to increased attention on business affairs in Europe, rather than in North America.  In September 2006, this refocusing was formally confirmed by the shift of the firm's global headquarters from Boston to Paris.  Moreover, German-born Michael Träm, formerly of A.T. Kearney, replaced Richard Clarke as the company's CEO.

Little's known publications

As an extension of its consulting efforts, ADL also produces research reports and studies on the direction of business, the combined effect of which is meant to raise the company's profile and mark it as a thought leader.  Chief among these is a biannual publication called Prism, which reflects on up-and-coming industry trends, updates on business-related topics and insights into how businesses and business leaders are thinking.

The firm is also a strong proponent of sustainability-with more than 40 years of experience in advising clients on the opportunities and risks presented by the issue-and also does its part to raise awareness of climate change and carbon agendas.  The firm's sustainable impulse is no mere attempt to take advantage of a relatively recent buzzword, however; as far back as 1906, founder Arthur Dehon Little was clearly concerned with the concept as a basic plank of good business strategy.  "Every waste that is prevented, or turned to profit, every problem solved, and every more effective process that is developed makes for better living in the material sense and for cleaner and more wholesome living in the higher sense."  How's that for forward thinking?



 



Arthur D. Little Europe


51, rue François 1er
Paris 75008
Phone: +33 1 55 74 29 00
Fax: +33 1 55 74 28 03
www.adl.com

STATS


  • Employer Type: Public
  • Stock Symbol: ALTRAN TECHN
  • Stock Exchange: Euronext Paris
  • Global CEO: Michael Träm
  • 2009 Employees: 1,000

Major Office Locations

  • Paris, France

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