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ARTICLES

  • Riikka Tanner

Do you know your MoSCoW?

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

On my last blog post I wrote about the need of having a vision which demands action and making objectives attainable in five, simple steps. Having goals is important but it is equally important to break those down into actionable steps to know how you are going to get there. What are the things you wish to achieve? What are the things that you need to achieve? How?


Unsplash / Pavel Fertikh

If you are doing strategic planning in a group you are bound to end up with a plethora of criteria for success. Some are more interested in customer satisfaction or reducing your company’s carbon footprint, while others are looking to generate certain level of revenue or securing a strong position on a specific customer segment. I have read several articles and research where one of the biggest reasons to failing digital transformation initiatives can be accounted to competing agendas. Trying to find consensus on design criteria within executive or management team can sometimes feel mission impossible.


Benchmarking Change

By design criteria we usually refer to things we wish to achieve, such as the ones mentioned above. They are benchmarks of change. There will be plenty of things you wish to achieve so the first step is to categorize all those things. Again, there is a simple tool for designing criteria for your vision.


You can categorize all the wants and wishes under Must, Should, Could or Won’t labels, also known as the “MoSCoW” –method. The method was originally designed for software development to help create a clear set of prioritized and agreed requirements for a project but it can be used just as well in any situation where timebox is present and you need to reach agreement on which things to concentrate on first.


Starting with the easy ones, there will always be items that are simply nonnegotiable, usually promises that have been made to customers, investors and other stakeholders. These items belong to the “Must” category. There are also things that “Should” be part of your vision and plans. Should category includes any non-vital criteria that you would love to have happening such as reaching a certain market position or enabling 24/7 customer service.


“Could” haves are extras, anything not directly related to reaching your goals. Take note, making decisions also on what not to do is equally important to those of what you will do. These elements that you absolutely will not do, will go under “Won’t” haves.






















And to avoid the effect that whoever shouts the loudest, will get his agenda on “Must” category, is avoided by simple rule of voting. Each participant has equal number of points to give for different criterias and the criterias ranked the highest will be included in the must haves. Simple, yet highly effective.


Oh hello, one other thing. There is this ever changing element of customer expectations. Have you or have you not stress-tested your vision and design criteria with your customers and partners? Do they see you the same way you wish to see yourself? Customer centricity means incorporating also their voice into your planning.


Change Takes Perseverance

Designing criteria that both challenges and guides action is no simple task. We should still always drive for criteria that follows S.M.A.R.T. rule – making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. This way it is actually possible to follow and measure your progress, which helps you in turn keeping your team motivated. There is a very thin line between measuring progress as a motivation mechanism vs. viewing it as a control mechanism. How progress gets measured and communicated makes it ultimately a question of leadership.


Yet no matter how hard we try, we don’t always make our goals.


In Western culture we have tendency to get discouraged as a result of failure whereas for example in Japan failure tends to increase motivation and make people work harder. Where we actually fail, is to see setbacks as learning experiences. Failing means that we will need to practice some more or we will need to find new ways to reach the next level. And sometimes all you need is pigheaded perseverance – also when designing your success criteria for change.



For this post, I got inspiration from books “Design a Better Business” and “The Lean Mindset” both of which are excellent reads for anyone interested in developing their organizations.

© 2020 by Riikka Tanner

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