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Date: 2019-09-15 Page is: DBtxt001.php L0700-TPB-About-Background-General


See more about Peter Burgess: ... some of his work in the corporate sector. ... some of his work in the corporate sector.
See more about Peter Burgess: ... ... some of his work assignments in international consultancy ... some of his work assignments in international consultancy
30 second summary
I graduated from Cambridge almost 60 years ago after studying engineering and economics. Later I became a Chartered Accountant and was good at profit improvement because I had some understanding of how factories and products worked. Mid career I was CFO of an international fishing company and learned the importance of nature in how the world worked. Fast forward post career I am trying to figure out how accountancy needs to be reformed in order for business leaders to make better decisions and how everyone should understand how unsustainable they are!

My background
I grew up in Okehampton, a small town in the South-West of England. We moved to Okehampton in 1945 at the end of the war, from Surbiton, a suburb of London, close enough to have experienced the 'blitz' and 'doodle-bugs'. My father was a schoolmaster, and he was a believer in the value of education, both academic and physical. My parents skimped and saved and at 13 I went to Blundell's School, a good boarding school in England, and then, in 1958, to Cambridge University.

Blundell's is an old school founded in 1604 by a local textile merchant. My time at Blundell's was busy ... rugby, cricket, athletics, tennis and academic study ... probably in that order. I was fortunate that I was at Blundell's when it expected high academic standards while also encouraging high performance in sports. I was a near contemporary of Richard Sharp who became one of the best English rugby players of our generation, and I was a part of a group of students that gained more places at Oxford and Cambridge than at any time before in the history of the school.

Sidney Sussex is a small college at Cambridge, not very well known, but very comfortable in its skin. While I was at Sidney, we reached the finals of the inter-college rugby tournament despite our small size, losing to St. Johns. I did what might now be called a “double major” in engineering and economics. I did the Mechanical Sciences Tripos followed by the Economics Tripos Part II ... essentially five years of academic work in three years.

The combination of engineering and economics has been the foundation of most of my thinking for the past 50 years. Cambridge engineering had a lot of metrics and calculation that spread over every aspect of the engineering world. This was in an era before computerized calculations, but manual calculation is possible, and we had sliderules. I maintain I learned very well the fundamentals of the calculations. Part of the course requirement was time in a practical engineering environment, which I satisfied by working in the apprentice programme at the Royal Ordnance Factory in Chorley, Lancashire. I still remember the challenge of making a 1X1X1 inch cube in steel that would push fit into a 1X1 inch square hole in a 1 inch thick steel plate ... using hand tools! My respect for craftsmanship is undiminished 50 years later.

I got into economics in part because I did not want to specialize in a specific engineering field. Economics gave me the opportunity to do study that related to almost everything. Not surprisingly, my economics education had a Keynesian slant at the hands of Joan Robinson and a fine tutor, Andy Roy. It was also influenced by my membership in the Cambridge Canada Club which organized annual charter flights fron the UK to New York every summer. I took advantage of these flights in the summer of 1960 and 1961 and in the process learned something of the world outside the UK, not to mention getting a very different perspective on economics and possibilities.

My travel to Canada and the United States in the summers of 1960 and 1961 has had a big influence on my subsequent career path. I also had some opportunity to travel in Europe. The combination of some exposure to Europe and North America complemented my otherwise very 'British' background.

Immediately after college, I worked in heavy engineering with Davy United Engineering Company. Subsequently I got a professional training in accountancy as an Articled Clerk with Cooper Brothers in London ... that joined with Lybrand Ross Bros and Montgomery to form the international accounting firm of Coopers and Lybrand and then PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I became a Chartered Accountant in 1965.

The first major phase of my career has been work in the corporate sector. I worked in heavy engineering construction in the steel industry, the pulp and paper industry and civil engineering, consumer products, high-tech systems and food and fisheries. Most of my work has been to do with management and ways to plan and implement profit improvement initiatives. By the mid 1970s I was the Chief Financial Officer for a US based international fishing company operating around the world in 26 separate jurisdictions. I was part of an international team in a complex industry that was well managed and solved problems creatively.

The second major phase of my career was working as an independent consultant. In 1978 I started a consulting firm to specialize in international business and development and have done assignments in more than 50 countries for the World Bank, the UN and its specialized agencies and private organizations. The assignments have always had a focus on data, analysis and planning for various parts of the economy including sector planning, national planning, refugee planning, famine and drought emergency planning, national reconstruction planning, aid coordination, information technology planning and implementation, privatization, management training, etc. I have had the opportunity to do planning and analysis work at the national level, the sector level and for regions and communities. My work has been done largely in collaboration with local local staff, consultants and professional firms.

The third phase of my career ... where I am now ... is to look at our global society and economy with the benefit of experience and try to get answers to some basis questions
  • Why is the global society and economy so dysfunctional?
  • Why are so many educated youth underemployed?
  • Why are guns more important than food, water and other basic needs?
  • Why, compared to what is possible, is performance so poor?
  • and so on
I am unusual in that I have practical experience in the corporate world making companies more profitable and have done my fair share of assignments associated with relief and development. I think of myself as being practical, constrained by what is technically possible, and a believer in solutions that are derived from not only understanding qualitative information but also understanding the dynamic of technology, of economics and the accountancy of financial numbers.

I concluded a long time ago that the capacity of the international community to achieve relief and development progress required a new development paradigm. This resulted in a book manuscript under the title Turning Development Upside Down which was not published but rewritten under the title Revolutionary Change for Relief and Development and again rewritten with a different focus under the title Iraq, A New Direction. I also published a paper titled Hundreds of Issues that Impact Releif and Development Progress. These were all published using by my company Tr-Ac-Net Inc. through its Transparency and Accountability Network.

While so much is wrong, there is also a lot that is right and amazing. There are two things that are particularly positive:
  • The world has more knowledge than ever before. Science and technology have progressed in an amazing way during the past 50 years and it is possible to do things now that were impossible a few short years ago; and,
  • Around the world there are more young educated people that at any time in history.
These two facts should be the basis for a future of progress, peace and prosperity. Based on this there should be optimism about everything, and enthusiasm about the future. But there is not ... many people are depressed about the future and the global economy is 'in a funk'.

So while I am pleased ... up to a point ... with the work I have done during my career, the results of my work so far have been inconsequential. None of the systemic paradigm changes that are needed have been made. From this perspective I have been totally ineffective, but I continue to try. I am particularly encouraged because many of the issues that I have wanted to be part of the conversation are now being talked about, and I am also encouraged that some of the critical technology to make certain changes possible are now available. The problem is that the links between what is talked about and what needs to be done are still tenuous at best ... or not existing. There is still more talk about the issues, than talk about the solutions to the issues. There is a huge amount of academic work, rather less practical work.
The Idea for Multi Dimension Impact Accounting
The idea for Multi Dimension Impact Accounting emerged quite early on in my history ... not during my time in corporate management, but quite early in my work as a consultant to World Bank projects and activities with the United Nations. Clearly, better accounting was required in these areas, in the sense that the bookkeeping needed to be strengthened, but the underlying system of accounting was limited as a strong management tool outside the money dimension. Neither the World Bank nor the United Nations are seeking to maximize profits, but to support 'development' in its many dimensions. For this conventional financial accountancy did not have the tools.
I had the opportunity to make a presentation in the Office of the Adminstrator of UNDP (the United Nations Development Programme) in New York around 1988 and after the meeting one of my friends told me that I had blown it because I kept talking about 'responsibility' and 'accountability' and 'management' ... three ideas that just did not exist in the culture of the organization.
Some time later, perhaps around 2003 I had another opportunity to make a presentation to the United Nations ... this time in the Office of the Secretary General. I thought it would be a good idea to team up with an African colleague who was very interested in more effective development, and while it was a good idea ... it did not turn out well. Mostly, it wss the same issue as before at UNDP, but this time at a much higher level, and the room was full of people who knew that attack was a better way of defense than simply listening. While I had decades of experience of this sort of push-back, my African friend did not. We were demolished!
In my experience, conventional financial accountancy is the foundation for very powerful management information systems that enable profit performance optimization. I have believed for a long time that the management framework that is central to management accountancy can be enhanced so as to be just as powerful for more than just money transactions and financial wealth. This is what the manuscript for Multi Dimension Impact Accountancy set out to do. It has been revised many times over a long time ... and never finished in a form good enough for publication.

Management is not an academic subject ... it is all about moving the needle!

The text being discussed is available at


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TrueValueMetrics (TVM) is an Open Source / Open Knowledge initiative. It has been funded by family and friends plus donations from well wishers who understand the importance of accountability and getting the management metrics right. TVM is a 'big idea' that has the potential to be a game changer leveling the playing field so the wealth and power is shared on a more reasonable basis between people who work for a living and those that own the economy and the levers of power. In order to be effective, it cannot be funded in the conventional way with a for profit business plan, but absolutely must remain an open access initiative.

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