A number of years ago, an astute friend of mine was talking about his industry – technology. He mentioned that, most of the time, tech projects could be delivered good, fast or cheap – pick two. Over the years, I’ve seen the same concept applied to just about any industry.
Wendy Brache recently examined the same concept over at Personal Branding blog in her post A Cup of Coffee to Good, Fast, Cheap. So I thought it might be interesting to explore what this means in terms of work.
Most of the time, our customers want a product or service to be reasonably good, delivered in a timely manner and at a cost-effective price. This is what we call value. And, if we’re able to consistently deliver our product or service in this manner to a wide enough customer base, chances are good that we’ll be successful.
Now let’s say our customer has a unique circumstance – they want the product or service much faster than customary. We can tell Mr. or Ms. Customer that it’s possible, but will cost extra because of the added expenses in accelerating production. So they’ll get it fast and good, but not cheap.
If they’re unwilling to pay extra, we have a choice – decline the sale or tell the customer the deliverable won’t be up to usual standards because we have to rush it. The customer will get fast and cheap at the expense of good.
You can probably see how this plays out in other circumstances. Say a customer wants good and cheap. Sure, you can do that, but it will take longer because you’ll fit the project in around more profitable pieces of business. Think of the vendors you deal with – I’m guessing they work with you in much the same way.
Now if you’re able to accept the “good – fast – cheap” model as a somewhat universal truth, let’s bring it down to an employee level. If the marketing department wants only A-level, rock-star employees but doesn’t want to invest in an outside search, they’ll have to plan well in advance to find them (good and cheap but not fast). Or, they need to pay for additional resources to quickly find that perfect candidate (good and fast but not cheap).
Finally, think of it in terms of your own tasks. Sure, you consistently deliver good work. Your boss tells you a project needs to be done in half the time it usually takes. Should your boss expect the same high quality if you don’t get any added resources? And if your workload is doubled without any added help or incentives, should your boss be surprised if some takes take longer to complete?
I’m by no means saying that we’re not all capable of high quality work within reasonable time frames. But at some point one has to give a little.
Of course, there might be a few other factors that can come into play but the basic premise will consistently hold true. We all want the veritable trifecta of work – employees who will deliver quality work, in a timely manner and at a competitive rate of pay. When they do that, they provide value to your department and the company.
But, if circumstances in your business change, are you prepared to get (or give) only two – good, fast or cheap. And out of curiosity, which two would you settle for?
Image courtesy of Ed Yourdon