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Speed, price, and quality


Project-triangle” by Cosmocatalano – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.

When I was in business school, one of my friends – who runs his own agency – explained to me the Project Triangle and the “pick any two” philosophy. 

Whether you’re building a building or building a mobile app, projects can be typically broken down in terms of 3 constraints: speed, price, and quality. The “pick any two” philosophy is that – because these dimensions are interrelated – you can only really get 2 of these dimensions at any one time.

So for example:

  • If you want a project done really quickly and you want it to be high quality, then it’s not going to be cheap. It’s going to be expensive.
  • If you want something done really quickly and you want it at the lowest price possible, then it’s not going to be high quality. It’s going to be low quality.
  • Finally, if you want something high quality and you want it done cheaply, then it’s not going to be done quickly. You might get it done, but it will be deprioritized by whoever is doing it.

Few things in life are truly black and white, but I really like this framework. It acknowledges the fact that something has to give. It’s unsustainable to think you can always get super fast, high quality work at rock bottom prices.

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