There’s no workman, whatsoever he be, That may both work well, and hastily.

There’s no workman, whatsoever he be, That may both work well and hastily. – Geoffrey Chaucer

Which hammer do you need to do your work? How much worse will things be if you have to use a different one, or can you wait for the right one to arrive? You can do it quickly but not well, or well but not quickly. What is your choice?

What does that mean?
This is two of the usual saying about “pick any two” where the list of three things is “quick, good, inexpensive.” But in reality, there is a trade-off between making something as quickly as you possibly can and making something as good as you possibly can.

The quote is also reminiscent of the saying “haste makes waste,” which also addresses the time/quality trade-off. We can make things as well as we can, but that will take time. We can make things quickly, but the quality of the product may suffer to some extent.

The trick is managing the extent of the suffering. If all that is needed is something functional, so long as it functions, you can go quickly. If it also needs to be pretty, that will likely take a little more time.

Why is doing it right important?  
Life is about balance, as is this quote. Like an explanation, a really thorough one will take a lot of time. If you don’t need all the details, it can be rushed through, and it will take a lot less time.

Here’s where the definition of ‘right’ comes into play. What is ‘right’ is what you need. Sometimes the constraint is the quality of the product. It doesn’t matter how quickly you get your car back from the shop, if it still won’t run, right? Once it’s running, there are other things the shop can fix, if you have the time (and the cash).

The definition of ‘right’ is some mix of quality and timeliness. How well does it have to function, how good does it have to look? That will need to be balanced with when it will be ready. If you need it today, it might not be very pretty, right?

Where can I apply this in my life?
It starts, for me, with determining where the sweet spot is. What is the right balance between too good and too sloppy, too quick and too slow? It will depend on finances, function requirements, deadlines, and occasionally, the circumstances.

The first is drives the process. You can improve both quality and schedule, if you can afford it. Conversely, if you can’t afford it, you might have to sacrifice both quality and schedule. How much cash are you willing to throw at the problem?

The second drives the quality of the end product. If all you need is a way to break a window, you don’t need a titanium framer’s hammer, any old rock will do, so quality is practically zero, right? But if you need an eyeglasses screwdriver, you are talking about a precision instrument, even if it is very small.

The third drives the haste in which you need the product. Going back to the first example, if you need to break a window to rescue someone trapped in a car, the deadline is right now. A gold plated, diamond encrusted hammer will do you no good if it won’t be ready until tomorrow. But if you’re going to break the glass as part of an art class sometime next week, there’s plenty of time, right?

And every circumstance is different. What was important to you last year might not be the same as it is this year. Sometimes you have to be sneaky, if it’s going to be a surprise (whatever ‘it’ might be). There are always other things to consider around the periphery.

Sometimes you may find yourself limited by the workman, as some make better quality and better speed than others. Sometimes the workman will be limited by the materials available to them. As the saying goes, it’s hard to make a silk purse when you have no silk.

But what if you are the workman, and someone wants it done right and right now? How do you explain it to them? How do you work with them to let them know what can realistically be done? Could you post standard times for the basic types of work? Let them know if they want something exceptional, it will take a little time.

You might also want to add the third dimension, cash, to the discussion. If they want two days work done by tomorrow, they’ll be paying you overtime to work through the night on their project, right? Just let them know why it will be so expensive, and what short-cuts you may have to make in quality to meet their schedule.

One last thing to remember – always under-promise and over-deliver. Have it ready a little early, and have the quality a little better, than what they are expecting. That way, if there’s a problem along the way, you have some wiggle room. And if nothing goes wrong, you’re a hero!

From: Twitter, @CBCFInc
confirmed at :
Photo by Velo Steve

On 25 October 1400, famed poet/author Geoffrey Chaucer died (or so claims the stone added about a century after his death).


About philosiblog

I am a thinker, who is spending some time examining those short twitter quotes in greater detail on my blog.
This entry was posted in choice, decision, good, success, time, work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to There’s no workman, whatsoever he be, That may both work well, and hastily.

  1. test says:

    It is a mine of information, indeed!

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