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Arthur D. Little

Arthur D. Little
Private Company
Industry Management consulting
Founded 1886 (formally incorporated as ADL in 1909)
Headquarters Brussels, Belgium[1]
Key people
Ignacio Garcia Alves, Global CEO
Products Management consulting services
Number of employees
1000 [2]
Website .com.adlwww

Arthur D. Little is an international management consulting firm originally headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, and formally incorporated by that name in 1909[3] by Arthur Dehon Little, an MIT chemist who had discovered acetate. Arthur D. Little pioneered the concept of contracted professional services. The company played key roles in the development of business strategy, operations research, the word processor, the first synthetic penicillin, LexisNexis, and NASDAQ. Today the company is a multi-national management consulting firm operating as a partnership.


  • Early History 1
  • Post 2001 2
  • Current Partnership organisation 3
  • Rankings 4
  • Publications 5
  • Career Education 6
  • Controversy 7
  • Notable current and former employees 8
  • Publications 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early History

The Arthur D. Little Inc. building at 30 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near MIT, which opened in 1917. (photo 2009)
Entrance to 30 Memorial Drive ADL building (photo 2009)

The roots of the company were started in 1886 by Arthur Dehon Little, an MIT chemist, and co-worker Roger B. Griffin (Russell B. Griffin), another chemist and a graduate of the University of Vermont who had met when they both worked for Richmond Paper Company. Their new company, Little & Griffin, was located in Boston where MIT was also located. Griffin and Little prepared a manuscript for The Chemistry of Paper-making[4] which was for many years an authoritative text in the area. The book had not been entirely finished when Griffin was killed in a laboratory accident in 1893.[3]

Little, who had studied Chemistry at MIT, collaborated with MIT and William Hultz Walker of the MIT Chemistry department, forming a partnership, Little & Walker, which lasted from 1900 to 1905, while both MIT and Little's company were still located in Boston.[3] The partnership dissolved in 1905 when Walker dedicated his full-time to being in charge of the new Research Laboratory of Applied Chemistry at MIT.[3]

Little continued on his own and formally incorporated the company, Arthur D. Little (ADL), in 1909.[3] He conducted analytical studies, the precursor of the consulting studies for which the firm would later become famous. He also taught papermaking at MIT from 1893 to 1916.[5]

In 1916 ADL was commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Railway to do a survey of Canada's natural resources.[6] In 1917, the company moved to a building of its own, the Arthur D. Little Inc., Building, at 30 Memorial Drive on the Charles River next to the campus of MIT which had moved to Cambridge from Boston in 1916.[3][7] In November 1953, ADL opened a forty acre site for their Acorn Park labs in West Cambridge, Massachusetts, near Arlington, Massachusetts, which is about 6 miles (10 km) from MIT.[7] The Memorial Drive Trust, a tax-exempt retirement trust for the benefit of its employees was set up.[8]

In 1981, ADL produced the European Commission's first white paper on telecommunications deregulation, having completed the first worldwide telecommunications database on phones installed, markets, technical trends, services and regulatory information.[6] It also helped privatize British Rail, generally regarded as one of the most complex privatization exercises in the world.

Post 2001

By 2001, Arthur D. Little had reached its peak. But, a new management team had badly mismanaged the company's core business, had engaged in manipulation of the Memorial Drive Trust, and attempted a sale of the Technology and Product Development business. The ADL Board of Trustees replaced this management team, but the damage had already been done, and Arthur D. Little had to file chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002.[9] At an auction in 2002, Paris-based Altran Technologies bought the Arthur D. Little brand name and financed a management buyout of the non-US offices.

Under Altran's ownership, Arthur D. Little successfully rebuilt its core practices in Oil & Gas, telecommunications, automotive and manufacturing, and chemicals. Arthur D. Little continues to be very active and recognized for its expertise in areas combining aspects of Technology, Innovation, and Strategy.

Current Partnership organisation

A group of Partners prepared a management buyout from the Altran group in 2011.[10] The MBO was completed on 30 December 2011 with the majority of ADL directors becoming partners and shareholders. The firm is led by the elected global CEO, Ignacio Garcia-Alves, who was also the leader of the MBO team.[11] Currently the firm operates with an elected Board, an elected Compensation Committee, and elected Partnership Committee, and an elected Audit Committee. Since the MBO, the firm has consistently improved its performance through the years and is on a growth path.[12]


Arthur D. Little was rated #9 and #6 in Vault's 2016 Consulting rankings[13] for Europe and Asia respectively.


Arthur D. Little publishes a number of regular global studies including:

  • The Future of Urban Mobility Study (2014 version in cooperation with International Association of Public Transport)[14] which is a comprehensive global urban mobility benchmarking report
  • The Annual Arthur D. Little - Exane BNP Paribas report[15] which has provided in depth analysis of the telecoms sector every year since 2001
  • The Global Innovation Excellence Study[16][17] which benchmarks innovation performance is published every 2–3 years and is in its 8th iteration
  • Socioeconomic Effects of Broadband Speed [18]
  • A collection of ADL thought leadership called Arthur D. Little PRISM is published twice a year.[19]

Career Education

The Arthur D. Little Career Education Program Arthur D. Little School of Management was spun off and became Hult International Business School.


In 1987, ADL claimed that sabotage was likely the cause of the Bhopal disaster, which resulted in the death of thousands.[20] ADL was paid by Union Carbide, the company that owned the chemical plant responsible for the chemical disaster, causing critics, Indian government officials, and environmentalists to charge that ADL's report was not independent.[21] Analysis by Arthur D. Little argues that the Negligence argument was impossible for several tangible reasons.[22]

Notable current and former employees

Politics and public service



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f
  4. ^ Little, A.D.; Griffin, R.B., "The Chemistry of Paper-Making, together with the principles of general chemistry; a handbook for the student and manufacturer", New York : Howard Lockwood & Co., 1894.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "ADL History Timeline" - ADL
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Altran website "The Group signed, on November 1st, 2011, a termsheet for an MBO concerning the disposal of Arthur D. Little due to be finalised by the year-end"
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Arthur D. Little - The Future of Urban Mobility 2.0 available from ADL website
  15. ^ Arthur D. Little - Exane BNP Paribas report available from ADL website
  16. ^
  17. ^ ADL Global Innovation Excellence Study available from ADL website
  18. ^
  19. ^ PRISM is available from its website or free on demand from any of the corporate offices.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ ^ Jump up to: a b c d e Kalelkar AS, Little AD (1988). Investigation of Large-magnitude Incidents: Bhopal as a Case Study . London: Presented at the Institution of Chemical Engineers conference on preventing major chemical accidents.
  23. ^
  24. ^ A Terrible Mistake:The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments A Terrible Mistake:The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments - H.P.Albarelli - July 1, 2009 - ISBN 0-9777953-7-3

Further reading

  • James Adams (1992). Bull's eye: the assassination and life of supergun inventor Gerald Bull. (Chapter Seven) Times Books.
  • Eagar, Rick, “Who says it can't be done?” : A brief history of Arthur D. Little, PRISM magazine, 2006 (issue for the 120th anniversary of the company)
  • Peter Herman (2006). Managing other people's business, but not our own.
  • E. J. Kahn, Jr. (1986). The Problem Solvers. Little Brown.

External links

  • Arthur D. Little Official website
  • Arthur D. Little 125 yrs anniversary website
  • PRISM: bi-annual thought leadership collection
  • Of Silk Purses and Lead Balloons
  • ICHEME Official website
  • Alumni Association
  • The Original ADL Alumni Association
  • ADL Chronicles Products and Inventions from the ADL Labs
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