Leadership & Business Wisdom

EVA as a Productivity Measure

Measuring total-factor productivity is one of the major challenges confronting the executive in the age of knowledge work. For manual work, measuring quantity is usually sufficient. In knowledge work, we have to manage both quantity and quality, and we do not know yet how to do that. We must try to assess total-factor productivity using the common denominator of revenues and expenses. By measuring the value added over all costs, including the cost of capital, EVA (economic value added analysis) measures, in effect, the productivity of all factors of production [or the true economic costs produced by all resources used].

Never mind that a business pays taxes as if it had earned a profit. It does not cover its full costs until reported profits exceed its cost of capital. Until a business returns a profit that is greater than its cost of capital, it operates at a loss. And this is why EVA is growing in popularity. It does not, by itself, tell us why a certain service does not add value or what to do about it. It does show which products, services, operations, or activities have unusually high value. Then we should ask ourselves, “What can we learn from these successes?”

Benchmarking for Competitiveness

EVA (economic value added analysis) is a good start to assess the competitiveness of an enterprise in the global marketplace, but to it we must add benchmarking. Benchmarking is a tool that helps a firm tell whether or not it is globally competitive. Benchmarking assumes, correctly, that what one company does another company can always do as well. “Best performers” are often found in identical services or functions inside an organization, in competitor organizations, but also in organizations outside in the industry. Together, EVA and benchmarking provide the diagnostic tools needed to measure total-factor productivity and to manage it. They are examples of the new tools executives should understand to measure and manage what goes on inside the enterprise. Combined, they are the best measures we have so far available.

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