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Meaningful Metrics for a Smart Society
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Date: 2020-02-22 Page is: DBtxt001.php L0700-TVM-FLOW-Profit-and-Loss-elements

Winning the Game! What Game?
More and more … of what?

So much of modern progress has merely been doing more and more of what, arguable, the world neither wants or needs. A huge effort has been expended in trying to create wants and needs … for not good reason.

The world has achieved an amazing capacity to produce … something never achieved before at any time in human history, but the metrics about socio-economics are pushing for production of all the wrong things … for things that produce profit and rarely if at all those things that would satisfy needs … be valuable, without being profitable.

The prevailing metrics are wrong most of the time, something that is terribly dangerous for the future of humankind andf the planet.

People Centric Quality of Life
In the money metrics construct winning is more and more of money and material goods … with quality of life assumed to improve with more and more of these things.

Keeping Score
In sports, scorekeepers keep score and the score tells which team it is that wins. Society is similar … with the present money metrics system of scoring, winning is about more and more money. In a value based society winning will be maximizing quality of life … the values that make life worth living.

TVM thinks of progress as winning the game … and maximizing quality of life. This is not a money construct but a value construct and way more complete as a system of metrics than mere money and money accounting that has changed rather little since it was devised in its modern form some 400 years ago. In TVM, progress … maximizing the quality of life … has a central role, just as profit has a central role in the business entity and the money metrics of capital markets.
PROGRESS is Balance Sheet Change
Corporate business accounting has well defined ways of computing profit for business. This definition of profit by Lord Benson over 60 years ago is very simple!
In the 1950s, Henry Benson … a senior managing partner at Cooper Brothers in the UK was asked while testifying in a British High Court to define profit. After a short moment of reflection he replied “My Lord, a profit is the difference between two balance sheets”
Henry Benson subsequently became Sir Henry Benson and later on Lord Benson. Cooper Brothers combined with Lybrand, Ross Bros and Montgomery of the United States to form the international firm of Coopers and Lybrand which in turn became a part of PriceWaterhouseCoopers PLC
This definition is one of the most elegant definitions about anything anywhere. It is such a contrast to the way profit gets defined in law and regulation … and the FASB standards and IASB standards, where different rules can be applied in a variety of different circumstances, and in the end, there is no certainty about anything.

How Change in State Shows Progress
If the state at the present time is better than the state at some time in the past ... that is progress. If the present state is worse than in the past, that is a regresion and a problem.

Simple balance sheet … the steady state situation
In this image, the value of the community is the same at the end of a period as it was at the beginning ... ordinary daily activities produce what is consumed ... it is a stable steady state situation.

Balance sheet change ... good progress
The steady state situation is unusual. What is normal is either progress or regression. In this next case the value of the community is more at the end of a period than at the beginning of the period ... ordinary daily activities produce more than is consumed.

Balance sheet change ... OOPS regression
In this last case the value of the community is the less at the end of a period than at the beginning of the period ... a problem because activities produce less than are consumed.

ACTIVITIES are Very Complex
While the STATE is relatively easy to understand, the ACTIVITIES are not at all easy. The measurement of PROGRESS is far easier to measure by reference to CHANGE IN STATE than by trying to summarize the impact arising from all of the activities ... which are usually very very complex.
TVM enhanced accountancy takes into consideration ALL the CAPITALS, that is the Social Capital, Natural Capital and Economic Capital.
Conventional accountancy only accounts for the financial dimension of activities, leaving out everything to do with social capital and society and natural capital and the environment.
Within SOCIAL CAPITAL there are three main subsections: Human Capital, Relationship Capital and Locational Capital.
Within NATURAL CAPITAL there are six main subsections: Land, Air, Water, Resources, Biodiversity & Ecosystems.
Within ECONOMIC CAPITAL there are three main subsections: Financial Capital, Physical Capital and Intangible Capital.
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Efficiency and Effectiveness
Two main measures ... efficiency and effectiveness
While progress may be measured simply by comparing the 'state' at the end of the period with the 'state' at the beginning of the period, understanding performance is more complicated. This complication is aggravated when external resources are mobilized, and especially when these resources have to be reimbursed usually with interest at some time in the future. Debt overhang from past resource mobilization is a chronic problem for many entities around the world, both public and private.

Over a period of about 30 years I did consulting assignments for the World Bank, the United Nations and others, but was rarely popular. In the case of the World Bank they considered disbursement a measure of project performance. In the case of the UN, they considered carrying out activities as success. Neither of these major organizations paid much attention to the sustainable progress that was delived to beneficiaries.
Progress … incremental value over time

Progress is incremental value … that is improved quality of life … improved social value that makes quality of life better.

Socio-economic value progress is one of the core metrics for a smart society … yet almost absent from the money related metrics used by the corporate community, capital markets and the broader society at the present time.

TVM has a community focus treating the community as the reporting entity. The rules for consolidating accounts apply as all the subsidiary units doing economic activities in the community are brought into account. TVM includes transactions that reflect value as well as the normal money transactions.

TVM is more accountancy than a statistical construct. The data are as simple as possible ... the transactions as small as possible, as many as possible and as clear as possible. Some of the value of TVM derives from how TVM can do accounting for community progress. In the following graphic ... the value of the community at the beginning of the period is the same as it is at the end of the period ... the community has gone about its business for the period, the time has gone by, but nothing has changed.

Data about the daily activities is not needed in the TVM system in order to be very clear about progress ... whether it is progress or problem. All that is needed is data about the value changes that have taken place from the beginning of the period to the end of the period as shown below.

Progress is about an improving quality of life … it is not merely having more profit or more growth, though these may be part of the assessment. In the TVM methodology the primary measure of progress is the value increment accruing to a society … the net of value consumed in the period and the value created during the period taking into consideration all the activities of the community. The framework for quantifying value transactions have some similarities with those of business accounting.

The three key datapoints in TVM are cost, price and value. Value is the key datapoint in measuring progress or problem. Cost is a function of and derivative of productivity and important in the analysis of activities. Price is important in money accounting and how value creation is allocated to different groups.

While value is important, it is also a complex datapoint because there may be an unlimited number of views of what the unit or measure of value is for any specific element. This has been embraced for some years now by capital markets as they have created more and more complex financial instruments ... maybe not all of them proving to have substance ... but the basic idea also works for TVM value, and in the case of TVM it has been combined also with standards also drawn from traditional corporate accounting. TVM refers to the unit of value as the CVU ... Common Value Unit. More than anything else, however, TVM is designed to be very practical, very simple, very low cost and very valuable.

Activity Produces Progress --> Which changes the balance sheet

Resources are consumed

TVM considers activity as an event that consumes resources and creates outputs like goods, services and happiness. Where value creation exceeds value consumption there is value adding, otherwise value destruction.

TVM treats the period value adding aspect of economic activity in the balance sheet in exactly the same way that period profit is treated in a business balance sheet. The profit of business is the net of changes in all the assets and liabilities of the business balance sheet. Similarly the value adding of economic activities changes the value balance sheet.

The balance sheet concept applies at the level of the activity or of the community. The value balance sheet may be used also for organizations and for individuals or families. The most useful for the “management” and oversight of society and socio-economic performance is, however, the balance sheet of the community.

Value is created

When a resource is consumed in some activity, something is done. It is of interest to know what is done, but normally the objective is not to do something but to have something of value be created. Metrics about the amount of activity in relation to the resources used enables the calculation of cost efficiency … but it is the production of value that is more important and enables the calculation of cost effectiveness.

Where value creation exceeds the value consumption there is value adding … otherwise there is value destruction.

Value adding or destruction impacts balance sheet

Value adding or destruction impacts the balance sheet … the balance sheet of the activity and the balance sheet of the community.

A community balance sheet that incorporates elements of quality of life will change when value adding or value destruction activities take place in the community.

It should be noted that “off balance sheet” transactions are as wrong in TVM value accounting as they are in corporate accounting. The value balance sheet for a community is affected by all socio-economic activities that relate to the community.

Profit versus Value

A value balance sheet for a community that is host to large scale minerals extraction will quantify what it is losing in natural resource value compared to what the community is gaining in value such as employment and perhaps assistance with infrastructure, education, health, etc. TVM value chain analysis and value accounting relative to the business organization may indicate that the profit for the organization is substantial while there is offsetting value destruction for the community.

How can this be? And the answer is that business money profit accounting keeps value “off the balance sheet”! It can be argued that not having value metrics is important to the modern corporate community!

Intangible activity has impact

Policy improvement

There are many intangible activities that can change the value balance sheet of a community … and change it significantly and rapidly.

Impact of Policy Improvement

For example, improvement in the policy framework that expands economic opportunity changes the “value” of many of the community value assets associated with people. TVM enables the dynamic of exponential change to be recorded and be a part of the accountability of decision making.

Improvement in the way decisions are made about allocation of resources to value adding activities changes the value balance sheet. TVM makes explicit the relationship between tangible and intangible activities and value change even though these matters are not linear but multiple sets of complex exponential multipliers.

Security … crime

Security changes a lot … the value of security is high based on all the economic opportunity that exists when there is compared to when there is not. People need security in order to go about their daily lives and engage in socio-economic activities. A high crime neighborhood is associated with a poor quality of life!

Job opportunities

The “value” of a person is diminished when there are no job opportunities where a person may used their skills.


A place may have people and resources but nothing gets done and there is no progress. This is because there is no capacity for organization. Putting in place an framework of organization adds value to the community and enables resources to be used effectively to create the value for progress.

Stats on the Game … But What Game?

Better and better quality of life

The game is better and better quality of life … and the metrics of performance should have a focus on this. Better and better quality of life is the way this game needs to be scored, and the way the game is played. The “stats” should be all in support of this game. This is about social value as well as about business profit … it is about values in society as well as money and material wealth.

More and more and more is NOT the game!

The dominant performance metrics are all about money and profit and economic growth based on more and more and more economic consumption. The end game for this system of metrics is a planet that no longer works to support humanity … but will appear “profitable” until it is “too late”.

More and more growth is the prevailing metric! This is a dangerous situation … consumption growth and profits are the top metrics and a path that will ultimately … and maybe quite soon end up with global value destruction on an unimaginable scale.

The main metrics for global economic performance are large aggregates and averages about growth and capital market performance. These metrics have some importance in aggregate, but do not inform decision makers adequately. The measures used for global economic performance are interesting, but not very useful. They have connection with correlation … but do little or nothing to help with cause and effect and with making better decisions. TVM aims to change the mindset that economic performance is about more and more but is better when it is about improved quality of life for society.

Paradigm change

Not only a bigger pie … a better pie!

TVM is aiming for some paradigm change. In the TVM view, global economic performance is the aggregation of socio-economic performance in the individual communities. Progress and performance is a result of tangible activities at the community level … done by real people who understand the cause and effect of actions in their locality.

The history of economic performance has a lot to do with technology and productivity … and much less with issues like monetary and fiscal policy. Technology and productivity are the “changemakers” that enable the creation of wealth, while monetary and fiscal policy, and the framework of law merely reposition wealth among various constituencies in society.

The prevailing metrics suggest that the global economy has done very well when viewed from the luxury of society at the top of the socio-economic pyramid … but the performance of the global economy from the perspective of more than 4 billion people who are poor and hungry, the socio-economic performance is pathetic.

There are chronic problems with the socio-economic system and especially decision making and the allocation of resources and the accountability for resource use … and the prevailing system of metrics does little or nothing to help.

The singular incentive of money, power and profit has created a monster that is difficult to tame … but not impossible. Metrics are very powerful … but the metrics need to be about all the important things and not only about the money profit subset of metrics. There also need to be metrics about important social value matters, even though these are more difficult to quantify.

The way the modern socio-economic systems works is not merely inefficient, it is substantively dysfunctional. It does not have the capability to allocate resources to satisfy the real needs of billions of people, but puts resources into “creating” artificial need for people who already have more than enough for their well-being.

How do Heads of State become billionaires?

There is something very wrong with a socio-economic system where Heads of State in countries that are resource rich become money billionaires while the population of their countries remain in a chronic condition of poverty. This reflects decision making metrics that are money profit weighted with little or no attention to social values … or indeed basic moral values!

Money profit and value performance not the same

Money profit and value performance not the same … they are very different. The economic elite and major decision makers have become comfortable with profit measures that ignore all the value destruction in society that enables profit making at its maximum. The profit money accounting metrics are convenient … but fundamentally wrong.

Activity and impact are different as well

Activity and impact are different as well … though many people doing academic studies and carrying out ORDA funded projects report mainly about the activities they have done rather than any impact these impact that may have been realized!

Two main measures ... efficiency and effectiveness


TVM uses the basics of business cost accounting to get metrics about performance efficiency. The simple questions are (1) how much did it cost? and, (2) how much was done?

With the answers about cost and how much done, it is possible to calculate the “unit cost” of the work done. Performance is not just an absolute metrics … it is also about how much is achieved compared to what could have been achieved.

So there is a third question (3) how much should have been done with this amount of cost? This is often done in the corporate environment using “standard costs” which are the expected cost for any specific activity.

Efficiency is a function of the difference between the actual costs and the standard costs.

Alternatively, efficiency is the difference between what was done relative to what should have been done.

Cost accounting measures performance efficiency. In TVM this is complemented with value accounting so that all the elements of socio-economic value flows are taken into consideration.

Cost efficiency is the simple idea of comparing the actual cost with what the cost should have been. This is a powerful way of getting control of operational performance. How much should it have cost to do what was done?

Knowing how much got done is pretty basic. Without knowing how much got done, there can be no oversight, control or accountability ... no inventory control ... no operational analysis ... in other words, without knowing how much got done, the whole process of management falls apart. With cost analysis it is possible to move on to evaluate whether or not the operations are efficient. One way of doing this is to compare what is being achieved with what should be achieved.

What it should have cost is a technical question. The cost that it should be can be calculated based on what needs to be done and the prevailing processes and costs. The cost in one place can be compared to costs in other places. The cost now can be compared to costs in a prior situation.

Cost efficiency is the simple idea that something should have cost X but in fact cost Y. The cost X is the cost that would be expected with a reasonably high level of performance efficiency ... usually calculated by reference to technical specifications, knowledge of the work to be done, and so on. The actual cost Y is what the accounting shows the item actually cost.

A standard cost is simply what something should cost based on technical considerations and the prevailing normal prices. A well done calculation of standard cost includes norms for efficiency and what would be usual in the usual setting. In the international context different standards may be used for different countries, and used for comparative analysis.

The international relief and development community has been doing “relief and development” for upwards of 60 years. A corporate cost accounting mindset would have set the stage for this community to know quite clearly what things should cost ... but rather than being an “open book” with a full set of accessible standard costs, the cost of everything is treated rather like a “state secret” that will put the nation in danger. Underneath this secrecy ... costs are probably too high and performance too low ... and no transparency a must

When there is a variance and costs are significantly higher than they “ought to be” there is almost always a reason. Frequently the reason is that the buyer and the seller ... people usually, but sometimes the institutions ... have some agreement that is not in the best interest of the groups that should be benefiting from the transaction. This is a common problem.

A public TVM database of standard costs will help to identify situations where costs are out of control or have been distorted by inappropriate transactions. A very simple database of costs will enable comparisons to be made ... and judgments made about where costs are out of line. Too low a cost may be an indicator of a problem just as much as too high a cost. Sometimes low cost is achieved by low quality ... and this might well have serious secondary effects.

Low cost (price) drugs may be because a supplier is forgoing high profits ... which is good ... or it might be because the drugs being supplied are sub-standard and maybe dangerous ... which is bad.


Effectiveness is not the same as efficiency. They are two very different measures that are critical to management and oversight of performance. A society will progress best when the socio-economic activities are both efficient and effective.

Performance is not just an absolute metrics … it is also about how much is achieved compared to what could have been achieved.

What progress for the money? In money accounting terms cost effectiveness is progress relative to the money used.

What value adding for value consumed? In value accounting terms effectiveness is progress or value adding relative to the resources consumed.

Money metrics a proxy for value metrics … in many cases the money metrics are a reasonably good proxy for the value metrics … but not always.

Need to measure impact, not activity. A football game … American football, that is … is won when points are scored, not merely by having the players “in motion”. The amount of “activity” is merely motion, unless the motion results in some sort of impact.

A society progresses when its socio-economic activities are efficient and effective. TVM therefore incorporates cost accounting that measures performance efficiency and value accounting that is the basis of socio-economic productivity. Performance is not just an absolute metrics … it is also about how much is achieved compared to what could have been achieved.

Productivity measures in the main are broad indexes of relationships between for example the revenues of an industry with the payroll of the industry. This measure suggests that productivity is increased when there is more output for less input. But this measure ignores all the value impact associated with, for example, less payroll and therefore higher unemployment and its associated value destruction.

Money and material resources at the community level only benefit the beneficial owners of these resources unless other things are going on as well. The metrics of the community performance must identify not so much the ownership of money and material wealth, but whether or not the community is constrained because these things are not being used for any benefit in the community.

Take the case of a bank in a community that has control over money and material resources in a community.

Banks operate in and have branches located in most communities … not all communities … but many. A bank is a custodian for money wealth, and produces money profit for the owners of the bank and its senior executives and decision makers using this wealth. All of the bank's money transactions are recorded and periodically consolidated and reported on. There is no reporting of what the bank does for the community where is is located … whether the bank serves to diminish the performance of the community and quality of life or not … the only metrics are about the bank's profits!

Wealth Growth NOT a Good Measure

The driving force of modern market economics and capitalism has been the simple idea that the pursuit of wealth is the best incentive for people to be fully engaged in activities that produce progress. There is no question that an economy based on this premise is better than one driven by egalitarian sharing of the product of enterprise … as in socialism or communism … but that does not mean that the capitalist market system works very well and is the best that can be devised.

Without an alternative measure of performance the capitalist market system is going to be “the best there is” … but, based on true value metrics it is abundantly clear that something better is possible.

Building wealth by the exploitation of the poor is as old as history. There is nothing wrong with the creation of wealth … but there is a lot wrong when there is little progress out of poverty because it is the price being paid for the accumulation of wealth and its concentration in the corporate sector and among powerful individuals in the economic elite. Concentration of economic power was seen as detrimental to society in the era of the “robber barons”, and the basic logic of the argument has not changed at all over the years.

A conventional financial statement includes an Operating Statement or Profit and Loss Account. This is a summary of all the money transactions for the period with all the revenue related transactions aggregated and all the cost related transactions aggregated. Transactions that only change the balance sheet accounts are not included in this summary. The revenue number is related to price ... that is the selling price. The cost numbers are related to cost ... that it the purchase price.

The issue of land ownership

The way in which the value of land is shared with stakeholders is a big issue that has a very long history.

The benefit of land usually flows to the owner of the land, or the owner of some right to the benefits of the land because of the application of law.

The Components of the Operating Statement / Profit and Loss Account
Conventional GAAP Accounting
True Value Impact Accounting
Statement of Profit or Loss
This is a summary of all the money transactions for the period with all the revenue related transactions aggregated and all the cost related transactions aggregated.
Transactions that only change the balance sheet accounts are not included in this summary.
The revenue number is related to price ... that is the selling price.
The cost numbers are related to cost ... that it the purchase price.
Conventional financial accounting is at the center of all management information systems and has been a very powerful factor in enabling profit growth over the past many decades.
The sad reality is that while profit performance has been improving, it has come more and more at the expense of social performance and environmental performance.
Accounts for and reports impact on:
in all their manifestations.
Revenues and Cost of Sales
A core concept is that the revenues in a period must match the costs of the period in order to give an accurate reporting of the profit for the period.
Main impact is on FINANCIAL CAPITAL
Other impacts considered as 'externalities' and not taken into consideration at all.
While it may be possible to have favorable impact on FINANCIAL CAPITAL, other issues must be taken into consideration.
Good products have a favorable impact on SOCIAL CAPITAL (Quality of life)
Good processes within the supply chain may also have low unfavorable impact on NATURAL CAPITAL (Environment)
Good workplace conditions and fair pay may also have favorable impact on SOCIAL CAPITAL (Quality of life)
Revenues The primary PURPOSE of financial reporting for an ORGANIZATION is to inform investors about the performance of the organization.
Over the years the manner of presenting financial reports has been driven by the need for investors to be better informed about how managers are handling the resources of the company for the benefit of the shareholders.
Cost of Sales
Cost of Sales is a function of quantity and cost.
The accounting for a sale, there is a credit to sales in the amount of the sale and a debit to inventory in the amount of the cost of sales.
The computation of unit cost and the debit to inventory may be done using a First In First Out calculation or a Last In First Out calculation. Over time, when costs are fluctuating, the selection of the costing method can change the resultant inventory balance significantly.
Elements of Cost
... Raw materials
... Component parts
... Energy
... Equipment use
... Labor payroll
... Worker benefits
... Other supplies
... Marketing, advertising etc
... General admin and overhead
... Financial expenses
... Taxation
... Pro-good expenditures

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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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