The 3 Legged Stool

In the high stakes poker game of product management, the house always deals the same cards: Quick, Good, or Cheap. Pick any two, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re holding a royal flush.

Welcome to the three-legged stool of product management, where each leg bears the weight of a project’s success. Got software you need yesterday and pennies to produce it? Expect it to stumble out of the gate like an arthritic horse. Quick and cheap rarely means quality.

But suppose you’ve got Good in your crosshairs, and Cheap is the monkey on your back. Your masterpiece won’t just materialize overnight. You’re not just gunning for “good enough”; you’re trying to scale Mount Olympus and claim the mantle of “Best in Class”. The price for that victory? Time. Good and Cheap are your watchwords, but Time did a runner. You have to be meticulous and rigorous on a shoestring—you can’t cut corners on the construction, but you’ve only got so many hammers.

There’s a flip side to that coin. When Good and Fast are the priorities, don’t expect Cheap to be in the picture. Want a Bugatti Veyron? You’ve got it—good and fast. But it’s not going to come at the price of a second-hand sedan.

Hey, if you feel the urge to release your creation before it’s reached its full potential, you can. Just remember, you’re cutting a deal with a cunning imp, and little bits and pieces of “Good” is what you’ll be handing over. Here’s the deal: “Good” isn’t some vague, intangible idea. It’s real, it’s substantial, it’s “Customers Loved It”. Skimp on that, and you’re gonna pay for it.

But here’s the twist, folks. This ain’t a one-stool game. A product is an ecosystem, a veritable forest of stools, each balancing on different legs. As a product manager, you’re playing architect in this chaos. You’re deciding which stool goes where, which priority props up which aspect of your product.

And sometimes, one of those stool legs is cemented into the ground. It might be a hard deadline. Or maybe it’s a set number of devs that can’t be budged. When that happens, some decisions make themselves. You’re not a wizard, so don’t try to wave a magic wand. Grasp the reality, embrace it, and plan accordingly.

You canna change the laws ‘o physics, cap’n. So if you just can’t prop the project up on the legs of the stool you’ve got, go back to the root problem and find another solution.

It’s on you to rally the troops, to keep everyone in the loop about why certain decisions were made. Why one leg got chosen over another. The enemy you’re fighting? It’s not just your budget or your timeline or your quality control. It’s scope creep. It’s unrealistic expectations. It’s your own drive to deliver perfection in an imperfect world.

But don’t let that spook you. You’re Link, brandishing your Triforce. It might not give you control over all of Hyrule, but it gives you the power to make smart decisions, to balance Time, Quality, and Expense, without plunging into the abyss.