Little also said at the club's Wednesday night best and fairest function that they hoped to announce their interim coach next week.
That prompted a chant of "Bomber, Bomber" from some members of the audience, in reference to senior assistant coach and fan favourite Mark "Bomber" Thompson.
He said next year must not be a gap year for the Bombers and is confident they can contend for the top four.
Little said Essendon's unprecedented crisis happened because their football department cut too many corners and employed the wrong people.
While the AFL hit Essendon with unprecedented punishments in late August, the Bombers remain under Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigation (ASADA).
Despite this and the speculation about possible tough anti-doping penalties from ASADA, Little said: "the worst is now behind us."
Little also said early last year, their football department was given everything it needed to succeed.
Without naming them, he appeared to criticise their former high performance manager Dean Robinson and sports scientist Stephen Dank.
"Corners were cut, budgets mostly ignored, policies and procedures invariably received lip service only," he added.
"We employed the wrong people in our high performance area in our search for success, and allowed them to operate in a poorly supervised manner.
"Protocols and procedures were vague and resulted in blurred accountability throughout most operational areas of the football department.
"In 2013 it was unanimously agreed by the board that the club had a problem and that we should self report our concerns to the AFL and ASADA immediately.
"The two Essendon employees at the centre of the investigation (Robinson and Dank) left the club and to this day, still have not been charged by any party."
Little apologised for the scandal, which resulted in the AFL being kicked out of the finals.
Coach James Hird, who was cheered at the function whenever his name was mentioned on stage, was suspended for 12 months.
Hird attended the dinner, but the only coaches to talk on stage were Thompson and fellow assistant Simon Goodwin.
Thompson gave no indication about whether he would take over as interim coach.
Little said it was crucial that the club rebuilt their brand and the team continued their strong on-field form.
"As a club and a playing group we must not treat 2014 as a gap year," he said.
"I genuinely believe that we have the talent and resolve in our playing and coaching group to evolve next year as a serious top four contender.
"To James Hird, we know this year has been very challenging in many ways, but I also know you will come back stronger and better equipped to achieve success for Essendon."
Little also acknowledged Thompson, football manager Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid, who were all charged by the AFL.
Thompson was fined, Corcoran was suspended for four months and Reid negotiated a settlement with the AFL where he received no penalty.