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How to use the MoSCoW Method

Prioritization is a very important component of the manufacturing process. There is always a myriad of ideas from team members and tasks to be accomplished. Prioritization is how all of these are organized into an efficient work process.

The MoSCoW method was developed in 1994 by Dai Clegg, a specialist with Oracle UK consulting. The word is an acronym for a sequence of prioritization rules. It was originally MSCW, but the Os were later added to aid pronunciation.

The MoSCoW matrix is very versatile in application. Both the manufacturing and service sectors require prioritization techniques. It could even come in handy in planning something as mundane as a birthday party.

So, now that we know that the MoSCoW matrix is indeed MSCW, what does it stand for?

  • M – Must-Have:  These are items most critical to the project, without which failure is inevitable.
  • S – Should-Have:  These are secondary items. They are important but not as critical as the must-haves.
  • C – Could-Have: Items on this list are nice additions that can be considered if there is more time.
  • W – Won’t-Have: Items on this list are not worth the effort, but could be added for aesthetics.

How to use the MoSCoW Method in Product Development

How to apply the MoSCow matrix

Now that you know what the MoSCoW matrix is and how it could be helpful to your team, how do you put it to action? I will be outlining that in five simple steps:

Step 1: Gather the team members responsible for making decisions

Often, in most organizations, there are multiple supervisors and team leaders responsible for making decisions. However, it would be chaotic to have everyone contribute to every project which is why organizations are usually divided into departments and such. Identifying the key decision-makers related to the project is the first step in applying the MoSCoW matrix.

Step 2: Draw up a procedure for the decision-making process

Even if you were able to reduce the number of members on the team to three, you would still need to design a method by which you hope to arrive at decisions. In any such team, there will always be multiple ideas from the many team members. This step involves designing a method by which the team would adopt ideas. You could decide to rely on voting and the simple majority. And you could also design for all ideas to be consensus before they are adopted.

Step 3: Allocate financial and time resources

Before you begin to prioritize, you have to break down your budget for the project. Determine the resource and time allocations for all four steps of the matrix. This is so that when you begin to prioritize, you can remain within the limits of each class. You must consider financial and time resources simultaneously. You don’t want a mismatch between the time allocated for a section of the matrix and the finances allocated to it. Allocating both resources at the same time helps to harmonize your agenda.

Step 4: Draw up a list

When you have assigned time and money to each of the four classes of the matrix, draw up a list of everything you will be fitting into those classes. Welcome ideas and initiatives from all members of the team. There is no negotiation or prioritization necessary at this step. Just take all the ideas and write them down in a non-hierarchical list.

Step 5: Debate your priorities

Now that you have all the possible line items, begin to debate. Analyze all the items on the list with your team members. Determine their relevance to the project using the MoSCoW matrix.


Not only does the MoSCoW matrix ensure efficiency, but it also fosters healthy teamwork. Instead of the old practice of having one monolithic team head determine priorities, it is an open discussion where all ideas are on the table and assessed equally.

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