Archive for the ‘CARVER Matrix’ Category

CARVER: Criticality Explained

December 6, 2010

CARVER: Criticality Explained


Criticality means overall target value. Overall target value is determined based on a targets importance to a system, sub-system, complex and the overall ability, if the potential target is left intact, for it to perform its intended function.  This is the primary consideration in targeting because the potential target, having this value (Criticality) strongly reflected in a strategic or tactical decision, will greatly enhance the chances of mission accomplishment. A target is critical when its destruction or damage (or protection/development depending on the framing and perspective of the matrix) has a significant impact on military, political, or economic operations. In total, a target is given an advanced level of Criticality when it’s destruction interrupts or eliminates the targets ability to perform it’s necessary functions hence enhancing the likelihood of mission success.

Targets within a system must be considered in relation to other elements of that target system. An example might be if strategically, Bulk Electric Power is to be targeted, then the generation of this power (power plants) would be a target-able element within that system and further the subsystem, for example “Turbine/Generator”, would also need to be considered.  All of the components in relation to the system as a whole must be taken into consideration.

The value of a target will change as the situation develops, requiring the use of time-sensitive methods which respond to the evolution of situations. For example, when one has few locomotives, railroad bridges may be less critical as targets; however, safeguarding bridges may be critical to maneuvering conventional forces, which require the use of such bridges.  Another example would be something involving an organization, business or government agency whose entire communicative network is contingent upon the properly functioning system of a third party host, for example: AT&T.  When the third party host is compromised successfully via online assault or “Hacking”, which AT&T has been more than once[1], the more critical government agency is affected, as communication is now impossible or at the least compromised.

If an organization or institution whose communication is still largely analog (not arguing FOR the use of analog equipment just detailing an example. Obviously Digital communication equipment and imagery is superior) then this is not so critical a component due to what actual “hackers” are capable of achieving against analog systems. However, in more advance economies utilizing digital communications, an assault on those particular systems and a loss of communication, particularly in conjunction with a secondary physical assault on critical infrastructure could be devastating.

Criticality depends on several factors:

  • Time: How rapidly will the impact of the target attack affect operations?
  • Quality: What percentage of output, production, or service will be curtailed by target damage?
  • Surrogates: What will be the effect on the output, production, and service?
  • Relativity: What is the number of targets and their position in the system or complex flow diagram?

Table A-1. Shows how criticality values are assigned within a CARVER matrix.

Table A-1. Assigning criticality values.



Immediate halt in output, production, or service; target cannot function without it 9-10 “Omega”
Halt within 1 day, or 66% curtailment in output, production, or service 7-8  “Alpha”
Halt within 1 week, or 33% curtailment in output, production, or service 5-6 “Bravo”
Halt within 10 days, or 10% curtailment in output, production, or service 3-4  “Charlie”
No significant effect on output, production, or service 1-2 “Delta”

In the Real World: High Criticality targets

Targets and attacks that provide the most immediate and strategic high value criticality to the aggressors are often terribly lamented tragedies by the world at large immediately and years later.  The depth of emotional pain, physical destruction and political turmoil that these “Omega” level events deliver is staggering, hence from a strategic and tactical point of view, these are very successful.

The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: OMEGA LEVEL

During the final stages of World War 2 in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first occurred on August 6, 1945 (Hiroshima) and the second on August 9, 1945 (Nagasaki).

Although the CARVER Matrix was not yet in existence in 1945, the U.S. Army and the Army Air forces used very similar criteria in the choosing of the targets.  The considerations they proposed were:

A. The range of the aircraft, which would carry the bomb.

B. The desirability of visual bombing in order to insure the most effective use of the bomb.

C. Probable weather conditions in the target areas.

D. Importance of having one primary and two secondary targets for each mission, so that if weather conditions prohibited bombing the target there would be at least two alternates.

E. Selection of targets to produce the greatest military effect on the Japanese people and thereby most effectively shorten the war.

F. The impact on morale with the enemy.

These led in turn to the following conclusions:

A. Since the atomic bomb was expected to produce its greatest amount of damage by primary initial blast effect, and next greatest by fires, the targets should contain a large percentage of closely-built frame buildings and other construction susceptible to damage by blast and fire.

B. The maximum blast effect of the bomb was calculated to extend over an area of approximately 1 mile in radius; therefore the selected targets should contain a densely built-up area of at least this size.

C. The selected targets should have a high military strategic value.

D. The first target should be relatively untouched by previous bombing, in order that the effect of a single atomic bomb could be determined by both the designers of the weapon system as well as the indigenous people from that area and other foreign governments.

The weather records showed that for five years there had never been two successive good visual bombing days over Tokyo, so based on the lack of good weather, careful and selective planning was necessary.

The attacks were obviously successful and that success was apparent within hours.  This is a critical component of a “High-OMEGA” level target, the rapid shockwave that affects the target area and the enemy.

TABLE 2-A Casualties in the Target areas

Estimates of Casualties Hiroshima Nagasaki
Pre-raid population 255,000 195,000
Dead 66,000 39,000
Injured 69,000 25,000
Total Casualties 135,000 64,000[i]

In addition to the destruction of infrastructure, physical injury and damage the psychological impact that these attacks had on the people from the target areas and on the country as a whole were massive.  The sheer terror that these “OMEGA” targets instilled in the people from the target cities caused them first to immediately flee the attacked areas abandoning anything that could not move on its own.  The cities became completely deserted. It was also weeks before any sort of clean up or reconstruction could be attempted. Another pronounced affect was that for people in a country that had weathered aggressive fire bombing at the hands of the allied coalition, a group of people that had become almost apathetic to hundreds of planes racing overhead, suddenly the site of a single, solitary and slow moving plane struck the absolute fear of death into them.  The lingering affects on the Japanese, and particularly on the people from the shattered cities were immense.  Although the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not win the war for the U.S., they clearly finished it.

CARVER Matrix: Model Based Decision Making VS you’re “Gut”

April 11, 2010

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The more the subject matter of the CARVER matrix and its various potential applications expands and develops on this blog the more emails, comments and arguments I receive regarding its employment.

In the initial post in which I explained the use of the matrix, “Use The Carver Matrix for Management” and the subsequent article “Use the CARVER matrix to prioritize”, I used examples and illustrated the most simple possible equations in order to maximize the ease with which a lay person might grasp the initial concepts involved with this highly functional decision-making matrix.

In retrospect, perhaps this was a less than efficient approach in that now, people in general seem to have completely missed the point. Hence this post today.

I hope to expand some-what on the use of this matrix along with advocating the superiority of model based decision-making over your day-to-day intuition or “Common Sense” because, let’s face it, usually there is nothing “common” or “sensible” about “Common Sense” and, while your “Gut feeling’ might work wonders when choosing which type of crust you want from pizza hut on DVD night (Cheese filled), human intuition is more often than not less than ideal when making complex decisions involving complex and diverse equations with various data sets.

Why Model based decision-making?
Model Based Decision making “makes sense” because it relies on data and algorithms, not on someones random, biased and fluctuating personal feelings regarding a given subject.
There are, obviously, times when intuition seems (SEEMS, not IS) to be unstoppable. For example, sports. The sports super star can’t explain it, but he just KNEW he had to break left at a given point. He could just “feel” it.
Another good example would be psycho therapists. They meet a patient and immediately “sense” what might be wrong with them.

This is all well and good but there are factors involved here that require illumination.

  • It takes a long time to build good intuition. Chess players, for example, need 10 years of dedicated study and competition to assemble a sufficient mental repertoire of board patterns.
  • Intuition only works well in specific environments, ones that provide a person with good cues and rapid feedback .Cues are accurate indications about what’s going to happen next. They exist in poker and firefighting, but not in, say, stock markets. Despite what chartists think, it’s impossible to build good intuition about future market moves because no publicly available information provides good cues about later stock movements. Feedback from the environment is information about what worked and what didn’t. It exists in neonatal ICUs because babies stay there for a while. It’s hard, though, to build medical intuition about conditions that change after the patient has left the care environment, since there’s no feedback loop.
  • We apply intuition inconsistently. Even experts are inconsistent. One study determined what criteria clinical psychologists used to diagnose their patients, and then created simple models based on these criteria. Then, the researchers presented the doctors with new patients to diagnose and also diagnosed those new patients with their models. The models did a better job diagnosing the new cases than did the humans whose knowledge was used to build them. The best explanation for this is that people applied what they knew inconsistently — their intuition varied. Models, though, don’t have intuition. Cues are accurate indications about what’s going to happen next. They exist in poker and firefighting, but not in, say, stock markets. Despite what chartists think, it’s impossible to build good intuition about future market moves because no publicly available information provides good cues about later stock movements. Feedback from the environment is information about what worked and what didn’t. It exists in neonatal ICUs because babies stay there for a while. It’s hard, though, to build medical intuition about conditions that change after the patient has left the care environment, since there’s no feedback loop.
  • It’s easy to make bad judgments quickly. We have a many biases that lead us astray when making assessments. Here’s just one example. If I ask a group of people “Is the average price of German cars more or less than $100,000?” and then ask them to estimate the average price of German cars, they’ll “anchor” around BMWs and other high-end makes when estimating. If I ask a parallel group the same two questions but say “more or less than $30,000″ instead, they’ll anchor around VWs and give a much lower estimate. How much lower? About $35,000 on average, or half the difference in the two anchor prices. How information is presented affects what we think.

Intuition is unreliable.

The more advanced and complex the factors are that require a decision to be made, the more unreliable our decision-making process becomes when we are depending heavily on our “gut Feeling”.

Even the US military now has taken steps to remove Intuition from battle field decisions and base these on complex models and data instead.

Special Operations Forces/Tactical Decision Aids

Battelle Memorial Institute developed the Special Operations Forces Tactical Decision Aid (SOF-TDA) to provide automated calculations and reference material for the analysis of selected targets. The SOF-TDA software analyzes systems, subsystems, and components of the eight major infrastructure systems and develops a flow sheet diagramming the chosen target. The core of this project is the automation of the CARVER matrix, which allows the user to weight items identified on the flow chart with the objective parameters of the mission. This analysis examines all information on a given target, determines what parts of the target are vulnerable to attack, and assesses the subsequent down time or possible destructive effects. In FY05 the product was fielded to over 400 SOF teams.

The point is that more and more, the people who KNOW, are relying on Model based decision-making tactics and algorithms to raise the percentage chance of success.

CARVER and the confusion

Due to my initial examples of how to use the CARVER matrix being extremely, overly simple, many people have raised the following question:

“well, it takes more time to make this graph than it does to make the decision, I could have spent that time working on something.”

Well, if the decision you are trying to make is “Should I A: Go make a sandwich, B: Go return my DVD I rented or C: Go to the potty ?” Then I fully agree. You do not need the CARVER matrix. I really honestly think you can likely handle those choices on your own.

Conversely, if you are making complex decisions involving an ARRAY of potential tasks, time requirements, financial expenditures etc, then CARVER is invaluable. Once you move beyond the most basic decision-making matrix and then begin looking at components like subsystems, Mid and Long range variants and collateral effects on components completely orthogonal to the current situation it becomes clear that drafting a clear, detailed, concise and re-usable model makes all the sense in the world.

Keep in mind, we are still referring to mere personal decisions. Once we begin discussing small business choices all the way up to Anti-Terrorism the necessity for these modules becomes painfully clear and their unemployment in planning and day-to-day operations is irresponsible and in many cases, dangerous.

My next post is going to expand further on my original CARVER matrix involving management or perhaps personal prioritization in an attempt to clarify, in a more detailed, realistic way how this should be employed.

I referenced the following articles while putting this post together.
The Future of Decision Making
Special Operations Forces, tactical decision aids.

CARVER Matrix: Tactical Target analysis

April 11, 2010

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CARVER Matrix: Tactical Target analysis

I have discussed utilizing the CARVER Matrix for a variety of things already on this blog:

Both of these have received a fair amount of attention so I decided to continue with the CARVER Matrix, and in fact, take things to the next level with TTA or Tactical Target Analysis.

In plain speak, what this means is a logical look at what you might want to do and whether or not it is possible, based on what you have to work with (time, money, tools, personnel etc).

I have gone over already what CARVER stands for. Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability.  Criticality is, after all, the most important.  Remember you can use this two ways (primarily).  CARVER can be used to access potential targets for YOU to strike (or projects for you to do etc) and it can also be employed in Risk Management or vulnerability assessments to determine what your most high RISK targets are.  Hence, CRITICALITY is paramount.  The table below is a very good construct of the Matrix in question:

The Above table is a very military type version that the SOF (special operations forces) might employ in target assessment.

Once you have a basic CARVER Matrix put together detailing your own mission etc, then you can move on to what are called TTA.

So the military is hitting a town, city, country, whatever. They put together a CARVER Matrix to easily see on paper, what targets are going to have the biggest overall payoff and hence- the most helpful or conducive to mission accomplishment. See below:

Above you can see, in this diagram, all the possible targets in a given area have been listed, the CARVER Matrix has been employed, and the most primary target for the aggressing force to attack, OR, for the defending force to protect, is BULK ELECTRIC POWER.

You can use this for anything you are doing in life.  List your goals and things you want to do, and employ the Carver matrix using the two diagrams above, remember to FIRST, CLEARLY DEFINE FIRST YOUR CURRENT LIFE GOAL, then CLEARLY DEFINE EACH GOAL OR TARGET GOING INTO THE MATRIX.

Once the primary target or goal is identified via the Matrix, you then, look at target subsystems and apply the same formula, see below:

Here we have a list of all the BULK ELECTRICAL POWER SUBSYTEMS. Out of this list, you can see that GENERATION is primary.  This is the place that is most conducive to stopping or shutting down the BULK ELECTRICAL POWER.  For example, if you list dieting in your Matrix for weight loss, and you find that it is primary, then you might want to go on to list individually, within DIETING, what components can you change, then put each of these components through the Matrix. See below:

These are all components for the GENERATION of BULK ELECTRICAL POWER and you can see that the TURBINE GENERATOR is the primary target.  If you employ this system to dieting you might find that “Eliminating sweets” might be primary or perhaps “Eating smaller meals” might be. Whatever. Everything from Risk assessment, Route Recon, Threat assessment, Vulnerability checks, Security Systems Checks and on and on. It is all applicable.

You can simplify decision making processes and realize opportunities you might otherwise miss by employing this system.

CARVER: Introduction (Management)

April 11, 2010

Being a Manager is not unlike being a General in the Military.
Although the literal objectives are very different a lot of the same things are expected of you.

Assuming that your “higher ups”, everyone has them, have clearly defined your mission in a broad sense, it then falls to you to make the more minor yet critical decisions that will lead ultimately to success or failure on the battle field. The battle field could be some far away land or it could be a board room, it doesn’t matter. The tactics that the US military teaches to its elite can be employed by you as well.
Once a goal or mission has been identified and clearly defined then the next step is to sit down and consider all the components involved in  achieving that mission. Often you will find that there are several steps in the process and it can seem daunting when these are presented to you. Which one do you and your team tackle first? Which tasks can be left till last or forgotten all together? Is your current course the most productive one you could be on? These are the types of questions that many managers lose sleep over, particularly if your financial compensation or that of your subordinates hangs in the balance.
In the world of business if you make the wrong choice you lose money and occasionally your job. In the military when a commander makes the wrong choice, people die, and not the ones he was hoping for. Hence the military invests literally millions of dollars in developing and researching concepts and theories to help commanders make those critical decisions. You can take advantage of one of those systems now.

The CARVER Matrix was designed by the US special forces and is employed in planning for both target selection and for identifying potentially high risk targets on our side of the fence as well. It has been used  often post 9-11 and is a very functional risk Management tool.
How does this apply to you, the office or project manager?
Read on….

-Recuparibility (Return)

With some minor changes and adaptations this can be used to put together a Matrix which can show what steps in your plan are the most immediately necessary and what should come later.

How important is this to your main objective? Is this really going to get you closer to your goal or is it basically a waste of time? For example in terms of sales in a fitness gym, is uploading new graphics on the website more critical or calling back people who have expressed in interest in trying out the club? Making the calls is clearly more critical from a sales perspective.

Can you start right now? Or are there steps and pre-requisites that have to be completed first? If you have to increase sales of a certain product and it seems clear that there is a demand in China but you have no Chinese sales division or even Chinese speakers in your office or on your team. It makes more sense to target a smaller yet more accessible market closer to home.

In Military terms in means how long after damaging the target will it take for that target to be back up and functioning again. For the manager you would call this maybe RETURN. It can seem  a bit like criticality but its different. What RETURN is, what will pay you back or pay off in the shortest amount of time. Opening the China branch might be very successful but it will take months or years to accomplish. Contacting new distributors in your local area however could happen very quickly. In this sense, speed is paramount.

Simply put, is this easy to do or difficult? A project that would take 6 weeks is more difficult than one that can be done today. In addition for business, really think about cost. Something expensive is more difficult then something cheap.

How will the completion of this component add to the likelihood of your project being completed or your goal being met? Closing a deal with a new chain of distributors will likely help sales but interviewing new secretaries probably won’t. It might be something you need to do, but it’s effect will be much lower.

Is this component or project simple to understand or not? Have you done this before or is it the first time? Are the steps to completion clear? To use the fitness club metaphor, you have experience with normal memberships and are adept at increasing sales through marketing and motivating your sales team but you are considering moving into corporate sales to boost overall revenue but you’ve never done this before and the steps aren’t clear to you. for this part of the Matrix, you would lose points due to the lack of complete understanding of the procedures involved and that’s how this works, points.

When you create your Matrix you use a point system. Each of the above categories receives 1-10 points. 1 being bad, 10 being awesome. First, You MUST HAVE a CLEARLY DEFINED GOAL in mind.
Once you have that, identify all the projects that you could do to help reach that goal. Once you know these projects, enter them to the left of your Matrix (see below.)

GOAL: Increase overall quarterly Sales of new memberships at a fitness gym by the end of next quarter.

Potential projects C A R V E R TOTAL
Start website 5 8 4 6 5 7 35
Referral campaign 9 9 7 8 6 9 48
Flier distribution 7 8 4 10 4 10 43

So here we can see that an Aggressive members referral plan would be the best out of these three options in attempting to meet the goal which was increasing quarterly NEW MEMBER SHIP SALES BY THE NEXT QUARTER.
Here is a good example of why a very clearly defined goal is essential. If the goal had been to increase new member sales within a year, the website option would receive much higher points in RETURN and EFFECT and even CRITICALITY and this would most likely put it above flier distribution in regards to points accumulated in the Matrix . Conversely, the Referral program would lose points on the longer time line because its not something that can be consistently tapped. People run out of friends and family and even with new members coming in its more successful and productive to have an aggressive friends and family type campaign once or twice a year rather than an ongoing, unproductive  one. Just good marketing.

In addition to that, had the goal been to increase over a quarter we could consider pushing personal training heavily or supplements or apparel etc etc. That however was not the goal.
These are factors that have to be considered when you plan to utilize the CARVER MATRIX as a decision making tool which is what its function basically is.

To recap:

-Clearly defined Goals first
-Brain storming to propose projects that would lead to the completion of said Goal.
-Concrete and clear criteria for each component in the matrix.
-Plan your work and work your plan. You used a logical clear system to make your choices so stick with them and work on one project untill its fully completed.


“A Leader is a man who can adapt Principles to circumstances.”
General George S.