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  • Writer's pictureAlan Shoebridge

Good, cheap or fast? The COVID-19 era hasn't changed the equation

This isn’t really about a post about COVID-19, but at the same time it is a post about COVID-19. Let me explain. Although I don’t remember when I first heard someone say, “Good, cheap or fast – pick any two that you want" it has always inherently made sense to me. It makes even more sense to me now in our COVID-19 new normal or whatever you want to label our current day-to-day reality.

Good. Cheap. Fast. Pick any 2.

At some point in the last three months, I started thinking about this phrase again. It works at the macro level in our response – finding a vaccine, developing therapeutics, social distancing, etc. – and in our specific efforts as healthcare marketers and communicators. At the national/global scale, efforts like developing a vaccine we will probably not hit the measures of cheap or fast, but in that type of solution good (highly effective) is the most important target measure there. A fast vaccine would be wonderful, but not if it fails to work well - or even worse if it is proven harmful in some way to a significant portion of the population.

Many of us have been working on messaging campaigns to promote healthy actions during COVID-19 and we are now pivoting to reassure people about the safety of our hospitals, clinics and other services. The timelines – and shelf-lives – of these campaigns are much faster and shorter than what we’re used to doing. We’re producing work that under normal circumstances might have taken two or three months in as little as two or three weeks.

With those type of aggressive timelines, work that is good and fast won’t be cheap. For work that is fast and cheap, it’s unlikely to be of high quality. Now, with the required speed of getting important COVID-19 messaging out you could argue that sacrificing some level of your traditional quality standards might be OK. In fact, I do think that’s a legitimate approach in our current environment.

Balancing realistic expectations during a pandemic

Although this maxim is good guidance at any time, it’s super important to keep it in mind as we continue to slog through our response to COVID-19.

Like those who believe unicorns exist, some people might insist they can make something happen against the law of "cheap, fast or good" and maybe they'll say they've seen an example in the wild - a project that delivered on all three fronts. And maybe they have, but just like I don't expect to see a unicorn walking down my street anytime soon, I'm not going to count on anyone delivering something good, cheap and fast either.

People will ask you, in fact you might even ask yourself, to do the impossible and deliver something that is good, cheap and fast. Remind them and yourself to just pick two!

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