WORKPLACE: What Happened to the Golden Triangle?


Many years ago, an amazing adman turned public speaker coach asked me if I knew the Golden Triangle rule. He explained that there are three sides to the triangle-1: Do it Fast. 2: Do it cheap. 3: Do it well. And then he looked at me and said "Pick TWO." The theory is so simple and glaringly true, I was dumbstruck. And I kept a visual of that triangle on my office door for years. My problem has always been that I always strive for "well"-even if the demands are cheap and fast. And it is probably why I have a chronic stomach condition! But the reality is if you don't have enough time or enough resources, the ability to do amazing work is very, very hard. And I put the burden on myself to try and strive for it, anyway. And that's how you get burn out.

The reason the golden triangle is in my thoughts today is that this recession has forced us to have to do all three. Period. Clients are strapped for time, and they shorten their vendor time lines as a result. Budgets have been cut everywhere so projects have to be done with very little resources. AND it has to be exceptional. Opportunities have been so few that every project you do get needs to be a "home-run" or you won't get another one your way any time soon. SO as we do more with less in our home life, we are also doing more with less in our work lives too. Less money, less staff, less time. But we have to deliver more, a lot more.

On a positive note, striving for "well" with cheap and fast has helped to hone my skills. I can think faster and ideate in short bursts of time simply out of necessity. I have learned to be thrifty with what resources I do have. My team has had to grow, stretch and learn skills that they may not have had to do if I had more resources. Wasn't it Horace who said, "Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant. "?

But it was also Elizabeth Hardwick who said, "Adversity is a great teacher, but this teacher makes us pay dearly for its instruction; and often the profit we derive, is not worth the price we paid. "? I can't help but wonder if when we have truly recovered from this recession, will be able to horse trade again to get more time or more money to do truly exceptional work? Or has this become the status quo for the future? Have we trained everyone in business now to expect cheap, fast and the best you can get for that as what is acceptable? Has the golden triangle dissolved into history like the 40 hour work week, faxes, letter-writing and the rotary phone? I guess time will tell.

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