When discussing the future of A.T. Kearney, Paul Laudicina, managing officer and chairman of the board for the Chicago-based firm, likes to talk about the past. “Right now, we’re spending a lot of time refashioning the future of A.T. Kearney based on our rich and historical past,” Laudicina says. “We’re fortunate to be one of the few consulting companies that has a very long legacy that helped establish the science of management consulting.”
Much of that science of management consulting was the work of one man more than 80 years ago – Tom Kearney, A.T. Kearney’s founder. “We’re going back to rediscover the essence of Tom Kearney and the early pioneers of this profession,” Laudicina says. “What we discover will be very important to our present and our future.”
That future appears much brighter now that the dust is settling around a brand new A.T. Kearney. After spending its first 69 years as an independent, privately owned firm, A.T. Kearney joined forces with EDS in 1995. In early 2006, the firm completed a management buyout of EDS to become, once again, an independent firm. A few months later, Laudicina, who has been with the firm since 1991, took over as managing officer and chairman of the board. He likes to say that A.T. Kearney is returning to its natural state.
“There is a huge cultural change going on right now, and I think it’s driven the transformation of A.T. Kearney,” Laudicina says. “When you put execution, sales and ownership in the same hands, it releases the power of entrepreneurship that is really quite powerful. It’s all about people and ideas, which quite frankly, had been lost for a time under EDS.”
In the EDS years, he says, A.T. Kearney had lost its focus, particularly on the clients it served. “Culturally, the kinds of changes we’re seeing are the kinds of changes you see when a knowledge-intensive professional services organization focuses first and foremost on the needs of our clients.”
The Courage to Change
Tom Kearney spoke a lot about courage, Laudicina says. “He believed that we needed the courage to tell our clients what they needed to hear in order to be successful.” In other words, not just deliver reports, but actually roll up their sleeves and get the work done, he says. “That’s how we’re doing business now.
“We’re getting back to understanding the essential rightness of what we do with our clients in this empowered, enabled, global environment so that we provide the quality of the insight we think our clients need to be successful,” Laudicina says.
One such example, he says, is the paradigm shift that’s going on right now when it comes to natural resources and the environment. “The resources, as we have used them in the past, clearly will not be available to manage the growth objectives we have for the future,” Laudicina says. “This is one of those rare times when we see the sweet spot of where the pursuit of profit blends seamlessly with the pursuit of the common good. Consultants have an extraordinary responsibility to be helping clients understand where sustainability requires us to do things differently.”
So far, it seems to be working. As part of the new way of thinking for the firm’s future, Laudicina launched “Vision 2015: Connect, Lead and Sustain.” The result? At a recent meeting, some 82 percent of the senior leadership say they’re fully aligned with the new vision.
“Fundamentally, what I’m trying to do is fan the passion of what we’re all about, and I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to lead A.T. Kearney through this important transition,” he says. “I think the biggest difference between today and where we were two years ago is the return to investing in the future of the firm by totally embracing the needs of our clients.”
That’s just the way Tom Kearney would’ve wanted it.