Why We All Lose with the Good Cheap Fast Methodology and How to Fix It.

Good. Fast. Cheap.

I'm assuming that if you've been a part of the workforce for any amount of time, you've come across this mantra at least once. If we're honest, it's really a roundabout way to tell clients "YOU CANT ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT!".

While it's been helpful to frame the core idea that these concepts are all tied together, I think it's broken in a few ways. Let's break this down.


"Good" Work

“Good is the enemy of great.”

— Jim Collins

When you take time to make something, and your pour your energy into every detail, it's scary to release it into the wild. You become vulnerable. Open to ridicule. It's scary as hell. Finally, when someone looks at what you have created, do you want them to say. "That's good", or do you want them to get wide eyed and say "Wow! That's great!". 

Let's remove good from our vocabulary. Good in essence means, "It's as good as anything else I have seen". I don't want to make art that gets lost in the noise. Do you?

"Cheap" Work

IKEA. We all love it. We all buy cart full of shit EVERY TIME we go that only God knows what we're going to do with when when get home. I mean, who doesn't need a good Dombas?! I literally have a small corner of my basement dedicated to unopened ikea boxes that I have not worked up the mental fortitude to put together yet.

You know why we buy Ikea? Let me break the news to you. It's not for quality. It's cheap. It's good. Not great. My dog can fart on the end table and it's likely going to fall apart. But thats OK. Someday when my kids grow up and there isn't the threat of permanent marker or stickers on every surface, I will hire a craftsman to make me quality custom furniture. Not something cheap. 

"Fast" Work

OK. Do I even need to go there? Who the hell doesn't want fast work. We all want fast everything. Amazon can now deliver Jello and binoculars to my house in an hour (don't ask what that's for...) .

Here's whats broken with fast in reference to creative work; processes take a specific amount of time. When you have to speed up a process, it's likely that have to cut corners. Good work is done by adhering to a tested process as guiderails. Your process is unique and is how you can make amazing things consistently. 

A Better Vocabulary

I think we need to adjust the vocabulary to be what we are actually talking about. We care about Time, Price, Quality. Boom. Now that we're not looking at a negative set of words that are devoid of value, let's talk about what happens when we force our clients to pick only two. 


What Happens When We Can Only Choose Two?

 

Time & Price

When we value only time and price, quality is an afterthought. You get the quick turnaround at a low price ... but the end result is dipped in ugly sauce (twice) and no one is proud of it. This work doesn't do anyone a favor. You won't share it on your website and you now are responsible for releasing this monster on the general public. You won't feel fulfilled by this work and it will lead to more of the same kind of work. Yuck.

 

Quality & Time

When we value only quality and time, it get's super pricey.  There is a time and place for this, and sometimes it cannot be avoided. Of all the combinations, I can see this being an exception to what I propose at the end of the post. That being said, money isn't an endless resource. Eventually, if you don't take the time to help figure out WHY the client is always in a rush, you'll be replaced with a cheaper option, and you will look like the bad guy. You don't want to be overpriced, you want to be priced just right, but thats a conversation for another time. 

 

 

Price & Quality

When we value only price and quality, the work probably won't get done. Your client wants high quality work, at a low price and they say the timeline is flexible. Well, let me tell you how this is going to end. Either:

  1. You get a week into the project, the timeline that didn't matter suddenly gets pushed into warp drive and you end up pushing the project through WAY quicker than you had originally scoped with no rush fees. Been there. Done That.
  2. Because you bid low, you put the project as last on your to-do list in order to make room for projects that are paying more. The problem here is that there will ALWAYS be projects that pay more so that item will never move up on your to-do list and you'll be come resentful of bidding out so low when the expectation of delivered quality is so high. 

How Do We fix It? Balance.

Time, price, and quality don't have to be held in two separate hands. They can all play together nice, and when they do, we are in our sweet spot.

 

Balance = beautiful work, created through a tested process, at a fair price. 

We don't have to pick two. All three of these elements can live together in the right amounts to create work that means something. We can make beautiful work, using our tested process, to consistently create amazing results at a fair price.

We are in control of our projects. We are in control of what we let go on in our businesses (to some extent). If we can educate our clients that there is a better way, we'll all be happy with the end result. There's always exceptions to the rule, but if we make balance the rule, we remove a lot of the stress that comes with the territory.

When you work balanced from start to finish, you won't be rushed, you won't be underpaid, and you'll have something to show for your hard work. 

So let's bury good, cheap, and fast. Once and for all. Let's teach our clients (and ourselves) about balance. 

Need some help getting balanced?

Let's snag a cup of coffee. I'd love to talk about how ways I've screwed up, share resources that I've found that helped, and encourage you to keep on!

Ryan Magada