• Joumana Elomar

The Moscow Method

Whenever we're faced with a new product, project or long to-do-list, having clear priorities can help create a clear roadmap. Enter The Moscow Method. This is a simple yet effective prioritisation framework that splits tasks into four categories: Must, Should, Could and Won't.

Created in the world of software development, the Moscow method is particularly useful whenever you're making decisions for things that have multiple moving parts. This can be in your professional line of work i.e. a list of tasks, a product launch, sorting through user feedback etc OR in your personal life e.g. Moving apartments, Buying a house, Buying a car etc.


The four categories are:

  • Must: These are non-negotiables requirements. They are the highest priority items that are considered critical for the project to move forward.

  • Should: This includes important requirements that aren't as critical. The biggest differentiator between 'should' and 'must' is that "should haves" can wait. These requirements improve the project's chance of success, but aren't essential.

  • Could: These are "nice to have" requirements but not essential. Can be safely ignored if there's a lack of time or resources.

  • Won't: Anything here can be crossed off your list. These are potential ideas, features or projects that aren't feasible in the current time, or that don't align with your overall goals.

Note: Some people simplify this further into 'Must haves', 'Nice to haves' and 'Won't do'.


How To Implement It

While it's a simple method, there are a few common pitfalls that people fall into.

  1. Identify where your items sit. Some people find it difficult to distinguish between Must and Should. A good way to establish the difference is to ask yourself a series of questions: What will happen if the requirement isn't included? Is there a simpler way to move forward? Will this work without this? If you can move forward without it, or it can be scheduled later then it's a Should. Equally, if you're unsure then it's also a Should.

  2. Timebox: After you've identified which categories things fall into, it's time to timebox. As with all tools, they're most useful when we tie actions to them. So allocating time in your calendar for the Musts should help you achieve them. Be careful not to overload your calendar, and leave Should and Could for if you think you have the time.

  3. Revise your priorities: Depending on what you use this framework for, it can help to revise your prioritises. For example, if it's an ongoing project, then revising the priorities with your weekly review can help as you get more information and complete tasks off the list.


Tying It Up

The Moscow method is a simple yet effective prioritisation framework. It helps us categorise things into four distinct types: Must, Should, Could and Won't. This creates a clear picture of what's important, what can wait and what to drop.

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