The Carver matrix, which has its roots in the Vietnam War, and was developed by the U.S. Special Forces as a method to rank and prioritize the targets to be destroyed. Interestingly, the matrix has now become a popular concept in business and project management. Its an answer to the following aspects :

  • To rank and prioritize goals and targets
  • To assess and manage risk
  • To make decisions

This can be used in agile story prioritization based on number of criteria’s, which are criticality, accessibility, return, vulnerability, effect and recognisability.

Most of the times businesses might seek inputs from us to help prioritize their goals based on more than one criteria’s. This is where this technique comes in handy.

Now let’s see how we can create a CARVER matrix to prioritize certain projects. The 1-5 rankings for each factor are simply for the sake of example, so your own rankings may vary. Keep in mind that these rankings are all relative to your primary objective, mission, or purpose.

Cri Acc Ret Vul Eff Rec Total
Write a book 5 3 3 1 5 3 20
Start a blog 2 5 2 5 4 4 22
Run a marathon 2 4 3 1 4 5 19
Make new friends 4 2 5 3 3 1 18

The numbers tell the story. According to our CARVER matrix, the most important project to tackle next is to start a blog. While it’s among the least critical items and won’t necessarily produce a great return for the time invested, it’s relatively easy and straightforward to do. Next comes writing a book, which is a more critical long-term project (at least for our arbitrary person making these evaluations), but it will also require a lot more effort to achieve. The least important is making new friends, its main drawbacks being that it’s too fuzzy and ill-defined, so it might be wise to replace that one with a more specific work stack.