The Choice You Need To Make

Photo courtesy of Vern Hart

Photo courtesy of Vern Hart

“Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick any two”

I ran across this bit of wisdom many years ago, and it has never left me. A professional services guy once told me this was the trade-off he had to step his customers through when they wanted a huge project delivered quickly, didn’t want to spend much money, and of course wanted a great result.

Big projects are about trade-offs. If you look at the Good/Fast/Cheap alternatives you often can solve for only two of them, but it’s rare to solve for all three.

In our world today, many buyers – both consumers and enterprises – are starting with “cheap”, so their decision is really between “good” and “fast”. Sometimes this is the right way to go, for instance in a commodity area where variations between projects is limited. The more the project is a commodity, the more likely it is that the customer can solve for all three.

But new projects and new ideas are different. They venture into the unknown, and carry a high probability that there will be missteps and u-turns before they’re done.

If you embark upon a new career direction, you might start by establishing contacts with people who can provide insight, asking and refining questions, testing theories, and capturing your learnings in writing. This will certainly take time (if done right). You might be able to accelerate this by attending a big conference, but the speed improvement will carry with it new costs (conference registration, travel expenses).

You get the idea. When you’re selling a big ticket project to a business executive, and you can’t get him or her to specifically address these trade-offs, your project is likely to leave one or both parties dissatisfied.

When you’re embarking upon a new challenge, and don’t intentionally make a choice, you’ll be dissatisfied with yourself.


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