Technology

Productivity: The “Fast, Cheap, Good” Rubrik

As long as there have been project managers, there has been a quick-and-dirty trick for describing any project. It’s called the “Fast-Cheap-Good” rule, and it will take you about five seconds to understand.

Here’s the rule:

Fast, cheap or good: Pick any two.

The purpose of this rule is to remind us that all complicated endeavors require tradeoffs. Whenever we have a gain in one area there will undoubtedly be a loss somewhere else. So what does fast-cheap-good mean for readers of MarTech? Let’s go with everything.

The Meaning of Fast, Cheap and Good

We all have a sense of speed. It’s race weekend here in Indianapolis, and the fastest car wins. No matter what project you’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s mowing the lawn or traveling to the moon, we all want it done as soon as possible. Of course, sometimes speed isn’t everything. Some of the best vacations are those where we linger. Some of the most successful products are those where the designers didn’t worry about getting to market first but doing better work. And often, rushing is wasteful of resources. After all, the Indy cars only get 1.8 MPG.

And sure, it’s great to save money. You can call upon an army of volunteers and interns to try to produce something, and often receive surprising results. Yet by reducing costs we also risk sacrificing quality. Searching for all of those places to save takes time. Ultimately, the way to have the best possible result is to ensure that time and money are no object. The highest quality work is always available when we have infinite resources at our disposal.

Fast, Cheap, Good and Productivity

This rule of thumb sometimes seems a little obvious. We all know there are tradeoffs in any project. Yet, as Doug Karr just pointed out, project estimation is painful. That’s because clients will constantly put us in the trap of trying to deliver something which is fast, cheap and good all at the same time.

This is impossible. It’s the reason that deadlines slip, projects go over budget and quality suffers. You have to make tradeoffs.

No matter the size of the project, the fast-cheap-rule is valuable. If you’re a graphic designer working in Photoshop, you can save time by not keeping your layers separate and organized. If you’re trying to cut costs on your email marketing, you can sacrifice quality by trying to do it in house (or sacrifice urgency by using a outsourced email marketing provider.) If you don’t mind a few typos in your article, you will benefit by producing it more quickly and inexpensively. The tradeoffs are easy to see.

In your own office, you can use the fast-cheap-good rule for more than just making decisions. You can also use it for communicating between stakeholders. When people ask for a work to be done immediately, you can ask them if they would prefer to sacrifice quality or pay for increased costs. If someone wants to know about less expensive options, ask them if they would rather see options that connect savings to fewer features or to a longer development cycle.

You get the idea. Use fast-cheap-good! It’s a powerful way to understand the nature of project management, productivity and stakeholder interaction.

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