Review by Tom Sommerlatte, former managing director of ADL in Europe
Many of us thought of writing a book about "our" Company's demise, some started to do it - and one did it: Ivars Avots. Maybe because he left ADL already in the early eighties (but after close to 20 years with the Company) and stayed a friendly but candid observer thereafter, maybe also because of his European origin, but certainly because he is a damn good writer (McKinsey Award for contribution to management literature), Ivars has been able to take an impartial, analytical look - sometimes more anecdotal than causal - at what he had experienced himself at Acorn Park, what the records say, and what many ADLers of the last few years told him.
The result is not "the truth" that nobody seems to have, some of the factual or contextual details may even be wrong. But after E. J. Kahn's "The Problem Solvers" which takes us through the early eighties, Ivars Avots' "The Legacy of a Sow's Ear" sheds critical and perspicacious light on many of the moves, mistakes, mysteries and myths of mainly the last two decades during which more problems were created than solved. Ivars "does not assign blame for the Company's demise to any of its leaders". But seeing the leaders' mindset, actions and behavior in the "historical" context and with hindsight, one wonders how consultants can do this to themselves.
The dichotomy between technology and product development (the literal legacy of the sows' ears) and management consulting, between the ADL cultures in the USA and in Europe, as well as between local people management and remote financial engineering is highlighted revealingly by the series of recollections and perspectives of ex-colleagues that Ivars was able to put together. As to "what should have been done differently", Ivars has not found an answer - but many diverging ones.
I imagine that a constructive next step could be that everybody reading the book and finding something to add, to correct, to explain or to interpret takes the initiative to let Ivars know. The current edition being especially interesting for insiders, Ivars is considering a revised edition for the broader audience and with a leading publisher.
Review by Alexander Soule in Boston Business Journal
Even as Ivars Avots launched a startup called EasyDown Corp., he found time to write a memoir of his time at Arthur D. Little, Inc. through the Cambridge firm's bankruptcy in 2001. So far, "The Lagacy of A Sow's Ear: The Rise and Fall of Arthur D. Little, Inc." has yet to make it into Amazon.com's list of bestselling business books. But it is a succinct work addressing an important piece of local business history."