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”
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….

CARVER
-Criticality
-Accessibility
-Recuparibility (Return)
-Vulnerability
-Effect
-Recognizability

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.

CRITICALITY
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.

ACCESSIBILITY
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.

RECUPERABILITY
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.

VULNERABILITY
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.

EFFECT
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.

RECOGNIZABILITY
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.

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

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