SimonStapleton.com

How to Prioritize Using MoSCoW

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Have a load of stuff to do but you’re struggling to prioritize it? Too many ideas or initiatives? Join the club. This is a common problem in business and projects. With a list as long as your arm, how are we to rank them?

Prioritizing is something that a lot of people have to do to be successful:

  • Project Managers who must organize what gets delivered, and when
  • Product Owners who must decide what features take priority over others
  • Problem Managers who decide what problems must be resolved and in what order
  • Business Leaders working on a strategy
  • Executive Assistants when organizing appointments

[Can you name any more…?]

There is a method that I want to share with you that will help you with this, and it’s easier than you might think. Anybody can do it, in fact.

I am guessing you’ve never heard of MoSCoW? No, not the capital of Russia. It’s an acronym:

M = Must
S = Should
C = Could
W = Would

[Ignore the two Os. They’re in there to make the acronym more memorable!]

How to Use Them

It’s easy. Take your list of tasks or business objectives. For example, an online retailer is planning it’s annual improvement program, and has identified many (too many) initiatives:

  • Renegotiate courier service levels to reduce delivery timescales by 25%
  • Implement a new Enterprise Resource Management tool
  • Find alternative packaging supplier to reduce risk of diminished stock levels
  • Change stationery supplier because the current supplier has had negative press about their choice of endorsees
  • Update the product images on our website to make them more appealing to customers
  • Change data privacy policies to be in line with new regulations

A rag-tag bunch of stuff that needs doing. So how do you use MoSCoW to help prioritize? Simple – we state if we:

  • Must do it – because the law or regulations mandates us to, or that our business mission will be seriously impacted if we don’t. There is little choice not to do this.
  • Should do it – we are not forced to do it, but doing so will progress our mission significantly. We can decide not to do it, but at painful cost.
  • Could do it – it’s optional, and we might do it if we have the resources to do so. If we don’t do it then there will be little or no penalty.
  • Would do it – but we can’t because something is blocking us. Once the blocker has gone, we will review it again.

And so to apply to our list…

  • Renegotiate courier service levels to reduce delivery timescales by 25%
    • We should do this because the saving will make the difference between breaking even and being in profit [SHOULD]
  • Implement a new Enterprise Resource Management tool
    • We would do this but we are still only 1 year into a 5 year contract with our existing vendor, and our break doesn’t kick into year 3 [WOULD]
  • Find alternative packaging supplier to reduce risk of diminished stock levels
    • We should do this because running out of stock will cause us a big issue with our major customers [SHOULD]
  • Change stationery supplier because the current supplier has had negative press about their choice of endorsees
    • We could do this, but as we are not directly linked to the supplier it is unlikely to cause us embarrassment [COULD]
  • Update the product images on our website to make them more appealing to customers
    • We could do this if we have surplus in our website budget [COULD]
  • Change data privacy policies to be in line with new regulations
    • We really must do this because not doing so would mean we are in breach of the law [MUST]

Get the picture?

We now have our prioritized list:

  1. We must change data privacy policies to be in line with new regulations because not doing so would mean we are in breach of the law
  2. We should renegotiate courier service levels to reduce delivery timescales by 25% because the saving will make the difference between breaking even and being in profit
  3. We should find alternative packaging supplier to reduce risk of diminished stock levels because running out of stock will cause us a big issue with our major customers
  4. We could update the product images on our website to make them more appealing to customers if we have surplus in our website budget
  5. We could change stationery supplier because the current supplier has had negative press about their choice of endorsees, but as we are not directly linked to the supplier it is unlikely to cause us embarrassment
  6. We would implement a new Enterprise Resource Management tool but we are still only 1 year into a 5 year contract with our existing vendor, and our break doesn’t kick into year 3

Using this method doesn’t look like rocket science, and its simplicity might leave you wondering why it is so effective, but once you try it in your own project or business, you will use it all the time.

 
This post is part 5 of 5 in the series Successful Project Management

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Affiliate Promotion

simonstapleton.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Polls

When answering Employee surveys, do you always answer completely honestly?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
SimonStapleton.com located at Watledge , Stroud, UK . Reviewed by 18,205 readers rated: 9.8 / 10
My latest book: ACE Your Performance Appraisal$4.99 on
How Am I Doing?

Did this discussion solve your problem?

Then please rate this post or leave a comment.