What is Moscow Method

Guide: MoSCoW Method

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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

The MoSCoW Method transcends being just a prioritization tool; it is a strategic approach for navigating the intricate decision-making in project management. This methodology excels by offering a structured framework, facilitating discussions among stakeholders to assess and align on the relative importance of various tasks and features in a project.

Central to MoSCoW is its acronym, denoting four priority categories – Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have. This classification is crucial in managing stakeholder expectations, directing the project team’s focus towards critical elements, and charting a clear course for project advancement.

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What is the MoSCoW Method?

The MoSCoW method is used as a prioritization tool, but it is more than just that; it is also a strategic approach to handling complex decision-making processes that you can encounter in project management. This method shines by offering a structured framework for stakeholders to discuss, debate, and ultimately agree on the relative importance of different tasks or features within a project.

The uniqueness of the MoSCoW method is within its acronym, which represents four priority categories. Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have. This structure is key to managing stakeholder expectations and ensuring that a project team focuses on the most crucial elements first, setting a clear path for project progression.

The MoSCoW Categories


Must have

In the ‘Must have‘ category, you find the key activities that are essential to your project. These are non-negotiable and pivotal for the project’s success. This category often comprises items that, if omitted, would make the project irrelevant or non-compliant with essential criteria like legal standards or core objectives.

Should Have

Moving to the ‘Should have‘ category, we encounter important elements that, while not critical to the project’s existence, greatly enhance its value and effectiveness. These are features that stakeholders strongly desire, and their inclusion could significantly enhance the project’s outcome. However, their absence wouldn’t label the project a failure.

Could Have

The ‘Could have‘ category is where you place desirable but less critical elements. These are often enhancements that would be nice to include but aren’t vital to the project’s success. The inclusion of these elements is usually subject to resource availability and project timelines.

Won’t Have

The ‘Won’t have‘ category is often misunderstood but is crucial for setting realistic boundaries. It includes elements that, although potentially beneficial, are beyond the scope of the current project phase or constraints. This clear demarcation helps manage expectations and focus on what’s achievable within the project’s constraints.

How to Apply the MoSCoW Method: A Step-by-Step Guide

Implementing the MoSCoW Method in a project requires a systematic approach, ensuring that all aspects of the project are considered and aligned with the prioritization framework. Here’s a detailed look into each step of implementing this method:

Step 1: Gather Requirements

The first step in the MoSCoW method requires gathering a list of the tasks, activities, features, or requirements you need to prioritize in your project. For this step, you should engage with all relevant stakeholders, including project sponsors, end-users, and technical teams. This ensures that the requirements reflect a wide range of perspectives and needs.

To help decide the categorize of each task in a later step you should understand the overall goals of the project. You will also need to gain an understanding of technical, business, time, and resource constraints right from the start. This helps in setting realistic expectations for what can be achieved.

Step 2: Categories Each Requirement

The next step is to, as a team with the relevant stakeholders, run a categorization session. Doing this with the stakeholders involved will help to gain buy-in and support for the project as well as a shared understanding of priorities. 

Each requirement’s placement in the MoSCoW categories should be a subject of discussion. Different stakeholders may have varying views on what is a ‘Must have‘ or ‘Should have‘, and these need to be reconciled.

For each decision, documenting the rationale behind the categorization can be valuable, especially for future reference or when explaining decisions to others not involved in the process.

Step 3: Review and Adjust

You will need to ensure the decisions of the categories are balanced and achievable within the scope once all are allocated. You may find that you still have too many must-haves and should-haves that either some activities need to be downgraded or a consideration to go back to decision-makers and create a case for more resources of time to achieve what is needed.

Step 4: Use as a Guiding Tool

You should continue to use the MoSCoW prioritization to inform decisions throughout the project lifecycle. This helps maintain focus on what’s most important. Prioritization can guide where to allocate resources and effort, especially when under constraints.

Step 5: Update as Necessary

Finally, regularly revisit the MoSCoW categorization, especially after major milestones or significant changes in the project environment. Also, be prepared to adjust the priorities in response to new information, stakeholder feedback, or changes in the external environment.


Implementing the MoSCoW Method is an exercise in strategic planning and adaptive management. It begins with a comprehensive gathering of project requirements, engaging a broad spectrum of stakeholders to ensure a multifaceted view of the project’s needs. The heart of the process lies in the collaborative categorization of these requirements, balancing differing perspectives to establish a shared priority framework.

As the project progresses, this method serves as a dynamic guide, directing resources and decision-making effectively. Regularly revisiting and adjusting these priorities ensures the project stays aligned with evolving objectives and constraints, making MoSCoW an indispensable tool for successful project management.


A: The MoSCoW method is versatile and can be used for various types of projects, ranging from software development and website redesign to manufacturing and logistics. It’s particularly useful for projects with multiple stakeholders and those that require a clear understanding of task priority.

A: The frequency of reviewing the MoSCoW list depends on the project’s complexity and how often its circumstances change. For fast-paced projects, a weekly or bi-weekly review might be necessary. For more stable projects, a monthly review could suffice.

A: Absolutely! The MoSCoW method can be used in conjunction with other project management methodologies like Agile, Scrum, or Lean Six Sigma. It serves as a prioritization tool that can easily be incorporated into other frameworks to make them even more effective.

A: If there’s disagreement on task categorization, it’s useful to have a facilitated discussion to reach a consensus. You can also use a weighted scoring system to quantitatively assess each task’s importance, which can help in making more objective decisions.

A: While the MoSCoW method can be applied using simple tools like whiteboards and Post-It notes, there are also specialized project management software that offer built-in MoSCoW categorization features. These tools can be particularly helpful for larger or more complex projects.


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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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