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Properly Utilizing The Fast-Cheap-Good Rule

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AccelaWork’s founder contributed as a guest to The Marketing Tech Blog. His topic: the quick-and-dirty trick for describing any project.

According to Robby Slaughter, when it comes to dealing with complicated projects, the “Fast-Cheap-Good” rule is always a valuable yardstick when seeking results. Below is some of his post:

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…

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…

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.

This rule of thumb sometimes seems a little obvious. We all know there are tradeoffs in any project. Yet . . . 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.

consultants discussing tradeoffs

© Flickr user U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District

Despite the fickle and sometimes negative connotation the word tradeoff may have, to Slaughter, its use in the “Fast-Cheap-Good” rule is quite a valuable tool in the office:

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 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.

It all boils down to the fact you can never have it all. Almost always, two out of three in the Fast-Cheap-Good rule is going to lead to an excellent result. When you try to jam all three into your project, that’s where major frustrations are going to arise. Managing expectations is as important as any other aspect of managing a project.

To learn more about AccelaWork’s perspective on increasing productivity and smoothing workflow in your organization, contact our productivity growth consultants today! We can help you learn where to focus your energy and how to best utilize the resources at your disposal.

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