A quick Google search for this phrase led me to articles about graphic designers, project managers, and even engineers who say the same thing:
Cheap, fast, or good. Pick two.
I first heard this statement when working on a video project. Since then, I have shared it on countless occasions and have learned that it’s also known as the “Project Management Triangle.” That triangle uses the terms “cost,” “schedule,” and “scope”—in other words, cheap, fast, or good.
The underlying idea is that you can’t have it all—there has to be compromise somewhere.
- If you want something cheap and fast, it may not be top quality.
- If you want something cheap and good, don’t expect it to be done quickly.
- And if you want something fast but need it to be really good, it will likely cost more.
In every aspect of marketing agency work, these three considerations come into play. Once in a while we get that perfect opportunity where we have the time, funds, and shared vision to really make a project come to life. For example, LMG’s Brad Dunham once led an effort to customize a Ford F150 Raptor for Drillinginfo (an energy-sector technology company based in Austin, Texas), creating a decked-out mobile software demo station used for road show appearances. For Gosigerfest—a biannual industry event held on Gosiger’s Dayton campus—we were able to support strategy and preparation for six months, ultimately transforming entire city blocks.
When navigating the “Project Management Triangle,” the key to success is defining priorities. Do you want to check a project off your to-do list quickly? Do you need a breakthrough initiative that will truly move your business forward? Are you tasked with making the most of a minimal budget? Your first two “yes” answers don’t automatically make the third a “no,” but it means accepting that the answer might have to be “not as much,” or “not for now.”
Of course, that assumes the situation allows you to pick your priorities. Something we recognize after years of urgent phone calls, tough deadlines, and tight budgets is that these things aren’t always in clients’ control. You have a boss who decided she needs something great on her desk by Friday. You just learned your company will be launching a new service this year, and your budget is already allocated to other projects. This is life in the marketing world. Compromise and flexibility are essential tools to survive and thrive.
Rather than bemoan the situation (or refuse to answer the call), we’ve learned to see “tight-turnaround” and “budget-friendly” projects as opportunities. When you embrace a client’s impossible challenge as your own, get in the trenches together, and work hard to deliver something amazing despite the odds, you can really make a difference—in terms of the project, but more importantly, for that person.