Good. Fast. Cheap.

It was my second week of working in television when I first heard the phrase: “Good. Fast. Cheap. You can have any two.” I’m not sure exactly where the quote comes from (a Google search will turn it up “Author Unknown”), but I quickly learned it is used as a mantra in television. In fact, I heard it uttered no less than a dozen times in my first few weeks of work.

Five years later, I not only continue to hear versions of that statement, but I’ve grown to believe it… well, part of it…

Let’s break it down.

Good. Fast. Cheap. You pick two.

Good + Fast
“If you want somethin’ good and fast, it ain’t gonna be cheap.”

Fast + Cheap
“If you want something done quickly and cheaply, it’s not going to be very good.”

Cheap + Good
“If you want something done inexpensively and well, it is most certainly going to take time.”

This principle seems to make sense, but let’s expound upon it a bit. Take pizza, for example. The best takeout pizza I’ve ever had — from Mario Batali’s Mozza — (GOOD) arrived in under 20 minutes (FAST), and was rather expensive (not CHEAP). Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza arrives very quickly (FAST), costs a fraction of a Mozza pizza (CHEAP), but uses nowhere near the quality ingredients of a delicious (GOOD) pizza. Lastly, Nick-N-Willy’s take-out Pepperoni Pizza is a few dollars more than a Taco Bell Mexican pizza (CHEAP), tastes delicious (GOOD), but requires you to cook it on your own (not FAST).

So, are all three of these options really equally beneficial?

I’d hope that the majority of projects we work on in life yield results like pizzas from either Nick-N-Willy’s or Mozza. Occasionally, yes, we’ll have to swing by a Taco Bell on our way to the dance class or soccer practice, but it’s not an area I think many of us communications professionals want to willingly stay.

Here’s the real issue: At no point should it be anyone’s goal to produce something that is not “good”. This approach almost slaps me across the face with a moral dilemma. I know that even the most inspired effort that spares little expense and is under the gun will be nowhere near as good as the one that takes time or more money.

Thus, I vote we drop the Fast + Cheap option from our world. Who wants a payoff that is mediocre at best? Taco Bell may have worked in college to satisfy a late-night craving or a mostly empty wallet, but it’s proven to yield obese, unhealthy results when consumed regularly. Likewise, in a company, adding on the project of social media to an already over-worked employee will yield far less “GOOD” benefits than it would to hire an intern or create a new position.

Keeping costs down will take more time to develop and execute a plan, and may cost a bit of extra money, but customers, clients and employees will be happier with the swift, beneficial results.