How to Prioritize with the MoSCoW Method

Do you need help prioritizing tasks when managing a project? There’s an acronym for that! Leadership coach Susanne Madsen explains the MoSCow method for prioritization.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!

a better way to prioritize projects

In Review – How to Prioritize with the MoSCoW Method:

Managing a project is often about managing what you will – and won’t! – get done in the given timeline. When there are no priorities set, projects can quickly become free-for-alls, with the loudest voices in the room getting their work prioritized over others, often not at the benefit of the project or the organization. Susanne Madsen offers a different approach. It’s called the MoSCoW method for defining and managing requirements and tasks in a project.

Susanne clarified that those are:

  • Must-have requirements
  • Should-have requirements
  • Could-have requirements; and
  • What we will not have this time.

By following this process to define what are essential and non-essential requirements for your project or product development, you can quickly see where your focus should be. This method also helps you to make sure you come to a conclusion about what those priorities are for each requirement early in the process. 

Take it further: Try applying Moscow to prioritizing your personal task lists. This technique can work on any project, large or small, and can be effective in helping you manage your own goals and priorities to get the most important work done first.

Pro-Tip: The Moscow technique is a great way to frame conversations with clients, to understand what they want and what are just nice to haves. This way, you’re not wasting time and they’re not being obscure. It’s a win-win for project kick-offs with clients. 

Thanks for watching!


Hi, I’m Susanne Madsen. Welcome to this whiteboard session on how to prioritize requirements with the MoSCoW technique.

In the MoSCoW technique, the “M” stands for a “must have requirement,” it is non-negotiable, we must have it.

The “S” stands for “should have requirement,” if at all possible, we should have it.

The “C” stands for “could have requirement,” it’s not essential, but we could have it if we have extra time or extra budget, and the “W” stands for something that we will not have this time around.

You see, on most projects, we talk about something that is either in-scope or out of scope. Using the MoSCoW technique gives you a more granular view, and it helps you make sure that you deliver the top, top priorities to your clients first.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine that you are the project manager for a conference. You sit down with your stakeholders and you ask them, “What must there be for this conference? What are all your must-have requirements?”

And your client says, “Okay, we must have a venue within five kilometers of the city center.”

“Okay, what should we have, if at all possible?”

“Well, we should really have a goody bag for each delegate to walk away with.”

“Okay, what could we have?”

“Well, let me think, we could have several tracks of speakers, but really, it’s not that important, it’s nice to have if we have extra time and budget, let’s do it.”

“What will we not have?”

“We will not have any alcohol at the event,” and you do that with all other requirements, but the power of MoSCoW is that you can also use it at a more detailed level, to look at the features of a requirement.

Let’s take an example with a goody bag. Imagine that you have now delegated that to Dan, and Dan would like to know what your expectations are, so Dan asks you, “What must there be in the goody bags when I deliver them?”

And you say, “Okay, we must have a copy of the conference program.”

“Fine. What should we have in there?”

“Well, we should really have a branded item, maybe like a pen, or something like that.”

“Okay, what could we have in there?”

“Well, we could have something sweet, but it’s nice to have, it’s really not essential.”

“What will we not have?”

And you decide that you will not have any soft drinks or water because they will make the bag too heavy.

So you see, you can use “MoSCoW” at a very high level, but also at a low level. When you use it at the low level, it helps you to delegate the tasks better.

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