Understanding the components of profitability and productivity change at the micro level

Bernd Andreas Wiech*, Athanassios Kourouklis, James Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
265 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents a refined framework providing clarity in terms of the components of profitability and productivity change from the perspective of the firm level.

The literature is analysed with a scoping study and a systematic literature review. Productivity measurement approaches are compared using data at the product level.

The definition of total factor productivity (TFP) in the literature negatively affects the accuracy of profitability and productivity measurement. In the usual case of a dynamic output mix, TFP change encompasses biasing output mix effects relating to profitability, but not to productivity change. Therefore, this paper defines changes of a ratio of output quantities to input quantities not as TFP change, but as quantitative profitability (QP) change. A framework is proposed decomposing profitability change into price recovery and quantitative profitability change, whereas the latter comprises of valid productivity change (encompassing technological, technical efficiency, and productivity-related scale effects) and output mix change (encompassing proportion, quality, output switching, and profitability-related scale effects).

Research limitations/implications
Future research should include literature from the industrial organisation field of economics. The presented framework should be transferred to the standard production function framework used in economics.

Practical implications

The paper can help preventing faulty decision-making or distrust due to the use of biased profitability or productivity indicators. TFP-based productivity indicators are unsuitable for most firms. To measure productivity meaningfully, firms should use adequate approaches (e.g. SI- or ATFP-based ones).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1079
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Productivity and Performance Management
Issue number5
Early online date28 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2020


  • Performance measurement
  • Profitability
  • Productivity
  • Total factor productivity
  • Output mix


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