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Jennifer Scheer

Principal at Shout Studio

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Answering the Age-old Tradeoff of Quality vs. Speed

March 13, 2018

Identify the optimal amount of output perfection and completion time for your marketing (or any) projects.

What is the optimal distance between two points for your marketing – or any – project? The answer depends on whether your priority is on the points themselves (quality) or the distance between them (speed). In other words, what is the right ratio of output perfection to completion time?

Is it better for a project to take a long time to achieve the highest possible quality, or is it preferable to get something out fast even if it's only OK?

In the ideal world we all know doesn't exist, we would produce the highest quality output in an extremely short timeframe. In this world, however, we have to make tradeoffs. We have to find the appropriate balance.

But what is the appropriate balance?

The answer isn’t to favor one side of the equation over the other, but to let the particular situation dictate your bias. Sometimes it depends on the project itself (its specific characteristics as well as its goals and success criteria), but it could also depend on the personalities of the people involved. When dealing with perfectionists, I advocate letting a small amount of imperfection get through in the interest of completing the project within a reasonable time frame. After all, perfection is irrelevant if no one sees it, whereas a pretty good job can still deliver pretty good results. On the other hand, when dealing with the let's-just-get-something-out-there rushers, you may want to push for a reasonable delay to ensure that a certain threshold of quality is met. After all, a poor showing now won't deliver good results, but waiting just a little bit longer for quality can. In the long run, no one will remember a slight delay but they will remember if the project missed its goals.

For every project, consider the ratio of output perfection to completion time, then come up with the guidelines that make the appropriate tradeoffs for that project.

What is the minimum level of quality required to be successful? What is the desired timeframe within which the work should be completed? How will you manage the quality/speed balance based on the specific requirements of – and participants in – the project? Building this thinking into your plan will help keep your project on track for both excellence and timeliness.

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