How I improved my productivity with MoSCoW Prioritisation?

In 1994, The MoSCoW method of prioritization came into fruition by a software developer called Day Clegg. The initial purpose of developing this technique was to execute project-based work with a prioritisation framework under time constriction. MoSCoW method of prioritisation is also known as the MoSCoW analysis. As a prioritisation technique, this technique is a pillar in understanding and managing priorities.

The MoSCoW prioritisation technique is an abbreviation for which the corresponding capital letters have been categorised for a specific initiative.
M – Must have
S – Should have
C – Could have
W – Won’t have

What components are involved in the MoSCoW method?

Let’s break down the components of the MoSCoW method:

  1. Must-Have – A non-negotiable criteria; the essence of this step is critical to the outcome of the project. This is something that can’t be overlooked. For instance, if a project has been set with minimum requirements. It should be met for the success of the project.
  2. Should Have – An important criteria, but not essential to the success of the project. Improving upon ‘should have’ elevates the chances of success but can be postponed due to time or resource restriction. An example to consider, visiting a tropical country for a holiday – a should have would be ‘air conditioning’ without it the experience of the holiday would be a tough sell.
  3. Could Have – A criteria based on the trivial details of the project – everything that is fun and interesting about the project and serves no real purpose to its success. An example to consider is an automated doorbell that has an in-build sensor control. It’s nice to have such measures but serves no purpose.
  4. Won’t Have – A criteria that isn’t aligned with the goal of the project. This can be removed or re-visited at a later stage if the need calls for it.

Why use the MoSCoW method of prioritisation?

There are varying benefits to using the MoSCoW method of prioritisation.

  1. The method acts as a due diligence check against a project’s timeline. It presents with the notion of what needs to be completed first and provides a perceptive over the must-have’s.
  2. The method itself is a foundation for expanding ideas. It provides a level of measure to avoid sunk-cost bias and focus on balancing the priorities of the project.

How to incorporate this technique with other management techniques?

As a technique, I find that it’s well suited to be incorporated with other productivity techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix in order to manage the priority of the task. 

Another technique to consider would be time-blocking. A means to allocate an activity to a given time frame to complete a task. It can fabricate a visualisation sense to focus our time on (must-have’s and could have’s). Hence, building an accountability loop to complete the tasks.

As simplistic it sounds, it can easily be incorporated into your productivity arsenal. It can provide agile benefits not to just oneself but can bring about a level of stability in the priorities subjected to the team. Hence, elevating the productivity of everyone working in the project towards one goal.


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I am a writer and a graduate engineer working in Leicester, UK.

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