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Fast. Cheap. Good. Why You Can Only Pick Two

And one of the two you should always pick is "good".

Too often, too recently, and too many times have I either been directly affected by such a decision, or have born the brunt of having to work with a decision that's been made when trying to create something, such as software, where a choice has had to have been made between making it quickly, cheaply, or doing it well. You can only ever pick two. Unfortunately most people think you can pick fast and cheap, and that then making a good product will be fluked our will somehow just happen. It never does. Never.


What is it with companies that seem to always pick the wrong options when faced with this dilemma? Why is it that some decision makers never learn from past, failed projects where the emphasis has always been on getting "just something" out there, that is barely good enough to perform the intended job or required task? It drives me crazy.

Apart from ranting about the times when I've found myself in this situation, let's have a quick look at the reasons why only two options are available. 

It's even possible we'll find that any two selections are slightly "pie in the sky", and a smidge of each is required.

Fast and Good

You can have those! Just don't expect it to be cheap. And that's not necessarily a reflection on the cost of the end product, but more about the cost of resources required to go into the project. To get something out quickly, whether it be a software product, clothing merchandise, a new book, and also have a quality product, you better be ready to spend money on additional development / design / testing / editorial staff.

Without some form of investment in this area, you may end up with a product quickly, but the quality will likely be poor. That's not helpful to your brand, and is a difficult precedent to recover from.

Good and Cheap

You can have those too! But the product will take significantly longer to get to market. If there is not much investor capital to begin with, you may be forced into this position. The risk is keeping your product current with the market needs, and not taking so long as to miss the fast sailing boat. We have seen this sort of thing with various technology companies, as they strive to keep up with the likes of Apple's iPad and iPhone. Apple has such a head start on the competition, manufacturers such as Samsung better make a damn good product to even come close to competing (in the phone stakes, they seem to have done this with a reasonable amount of success).

Of course, being a little slower also has its advantages, as you can then take the time to fill any gaps found in any competing, albeit trailblazing, offering. An accurate market knowledge and significant marketing campaign is required to assist in catching up to the leaders of the pack in this case. Which in turn can be costly (bringing in a smidge of all three elements).

Fast and Cheap

Well even I can do that. But will it be good? Doubtful. So why bother? The only way this strategy to be successful is if you truly own the market and your customers are willing to purchase any rubbish you produce, despite its obvious failings. Good luck in finding such a market these days. Reputations are hard won, yet easily lost, and selecting this option is playing with fire.

In Summary

Companies these days seem to want, nay demand, all three. They will not get them. These are greedy times, where profit margins need to be record breaking year-on-year lest you be labelled a failure. More and more we are seeing companies willing to take the time to produce very high quality products be the more successful, taking the "Fast" element out of the equation.

If you are not willing to either invest heavily in resources at the design and development phase to produce goods quickly, then you must take the time to ensure your product is a quality offering.

Your reputation relies on it. 

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One comment on “Fast. Cheap. Good. Why You Can Only Pick Two

  1. True That. Could not have put it better myself. this is true in every sphere of life and business
    Art, Sport, FInance, Software, Relationships!!!
    Great Post

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