Project Management 101: MoSCoW

Project Management 101: MoSCoW

First, due to the current state of the world, please note that we’re discussing the “camelCase” MoSCoW, not the Russia Moscow 🪆. This is not a political piece but a learning piece.

Much like my last article, we’ll stay the course by providing time management tools to help us manage our day-to-day tasks and help prioritize what needs to happen or what should have happened first, as you’ll soon see.

MoSCoW, as it were, is spelled this way to assist in remembering what it means: Must, Should, Could, and Won’t. If you read my Eisenhower Matrix piece, you’ll see the similarity: four items denoting that you SHALL get something done down to WHO CARES? Like many other tools, this can also be used with a team. Think of these tasks as having to be sorted in terms of a specific time box (like a Sprint).

For ease of learning, pretend we’ve drawn a large rectangle, lengthwise, left to right. Now, divide this into four equal quadrants. Here’s what and why we’re going to label each quadrant:


(MoSCOW) The items under this header are tasks, meetings, or notes we must complete. A project or program will only succeed if we promptly complete these items.


(MoSCoW) Items you’re putting under should tend to be significant. However, not completing them before the end of the sprint or iteration won’t cause failure. These are “really nice to have features,” but are not ones that will cause a loss of the whole project.


(MoSCoW) A could item is a “good to have” item/task that may improve the user experience (if, say, you’re working on a software project)- but the project/sprint is not a failure if you leave them out.


(MsSCoW) Don’t care, won’t care, not doing it.

And this is all there is to it. It might not seem like much, but taking just a few minutes between you and your team (or you and yourself) can make quick sorting of a growing pile of tasks.

And who doesn’t enjoy infographics? So here’s one on MoSCoW to hang near the coffee maker.