A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“Why did the vulture cross the road?"/"For a fowl reason.” (6/25)
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LGBTQWERTY (LGBT/LGBTQ + QWERTY) (6/24)
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Entry from August 25, 2012
“Fast. cheap, good—pick any two”

A popular business axiom states that a customer can “pick any two—fast, cheap, good.” Accomplishing all three is not possible.

“Good, Fast, Cheap—Pick Any Two” was a manager’s desk sign in the early 1960s, according to an article in the April 20, 1994, New Straits Times (Malaysia). 

“Good, fast, cheap, pick any two” was said to be “an old saying in the movie business” in the book, Motion Picture and Video Lighting (1996). A 2009 blog post on Film Production and The Money explained:

“Because old it verily is. About 1970 I saw an interview with Hattie Jacques, a veteran character actor who always played the dowdy Matron, Wife, etc. through the series of “Carry On ___” movies out of the UK. She not only used the phrase, “Faster-Better-Cheaper pick any two”, but she said that it was a mantra that she had been living for many years.”

An October 1982 article in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, by Glenda Y. Nogami, was titled “Good-Fast-Cheap: Pick Any Two: Dilemmas About the Value of Applicable Research.” The saying was said to be an old expression of Detroit’s auto industry in a 1994 book. Since the 1990s, the saying has been very popular in computing.

A similarly constructed college saying from the 1990s is “Good grades, enough sleep or a social life—pick any two.”


Wikipedia: Project management triangle
The Project Management Triangle (called also Triple Constraint) is a model of the constraints of project management. It is a graphic aid where the three attributes show on the corners of the triangle to show opposition.
(...)
Example
You are given the options of Fast, Good and Cheap, and told to pick any two. Here Fast refers to the time required to deliver the product, Good is the quality of the final product, and Cheap refers to the total cost of designing and building the product. This triangle reflects the fact that the three properties of a project are interrelated, and it is not possible to optimize all three – one will always suffer.

Google Books
Slinging Ink:
A Practical Guide to Producing Booklets, Newspapers, and Ephemeral Publications

BY Jan Sutter
Los Altos, CA: William Kaufmann
1982
Pg. 145:
“You want it good, fast, cheap? Then pick two, mister, and call me tomorrow.”

Wiley Online Library
Good-Fast-Cheap: Pick Any Two: Dilemmas About the Value of Applicable Research
Glenda Y. Nogami
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 12, Issue 5, pages 343–348, October 1982

Google News Archive
13 April 1992, The Southeast Missourian (Cape Girardeau, MO), “In health care, ‘good, fast and cheap are hard to ask for,” pg. 8A, col. 3:
To the Editor:
There is fast, there is cheap, and there is good. Pick any two. Regardless of your “rights” or the laws, all three aare not likely to happen simultaneously.
(...)
Dr. Ed Masters
Cape Girardeau

University of North Carolina
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the DWE
Ron Azuma
V 1.6
last revised August 1993
(...)
The fundamental law of computer architecture:
“Good, fast, cheap: pick any two.”

qrp@Think.COM
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 21:36:48 PDT
From: (Doug Hendricks)
Message-Id: <9310140436.AA03864@deneb.csustan.edu>
To:
Subject: QQ for Oct?
(...)
Maybe it is like a friend of mine who likes to tell his customers, “You can have it Good, Fast or Cheap, Pick any two you want.”

Google Books
Comeback:
The fall and rise of the American automobile industry

By Paul J. Ingrassia and Joseph Blanco White
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
1994
Pg. 449:
“There’s an old saying in Detroit: ‘Good, fast, or cheap. Pick any two.’ We refuse to accept that.”

Google Books
Total Quality Project Management for the Design Firm:
How to Improve Quality, Increase Sales, and Reduce Costs

By Frank A. Stasiowski and David Burstein
New York, NY: J. Wiley
1994
Pg. 47:
So we, as design professionals, resort to the old saw, “You can have it fast, good, or cheap — pick any two.”

30 April 1994,New Straits Times (Malaysia), “The four critical demands” by Tan Joo Seet, Appointments, pg. 1, col. 3:
IN the early 1960s, the path to the top was neatly summarized by a sign over the desk of one manager: “Good, Fast, Cheap—Pick Any Two.”

Google Books
24 December 1994, BIllboard magazine, pg. 78, col. 1:
“I am not prepared today to offer a solution to this dilemma I attribute to the mass-merchant mindset of cheaper, cheaper, cheaper — pick any two,” said James Merkle, president of duplicator Allied Film & Video.

Google Books
Motion Picture and Video Lighting
By Blain Brown
Boston, MA: Focal Press
1996
Pg. 87:
There is an old saying in the movie business: “Good, fast, cheap, pick any two”

Google Books
Environmental Impact Statements:
A Practical Guide for Agencies, Citizens, and Consultants

By Diori L. Kreske
New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons
1996
Pg. 203:
FAST. GOOD. CHEAP. Pick Two.
Anonymous

Google Books
Secrets of a Freelance Writer:
How to make $85,000 a year (Second Edition)

By Robert W. Bly
New York, NY: Henry Holt
1997
Pg. 186:
Freelance video scriptwriter Steve Yankee gives his clients a card that says: “You can have it fast. You can have it good. You can have it cheap. Pick any two.” Many clients, however, will try to get it fast, good, and cheap.

Google Books
The Complete Guide to Technical and Skills Training
By American Society for Training and Development
Alexandria, VA: American Society for Training & Development
1998
Pg. 126:
Materials production follows the maxim “good, fast, and cheap, pick two.”

New York (NY) Times
Cutting Corners in Space
Published: December 11, 1999
To the Editor:
Robert L. Park (Op-Ed, Dec. 7) points out that critics ‘’were quick to mutter that NASA’s decision to develop ‘better, cheaper, faster’ science missions is to blame’’ for the loss of the Mars Polar Lander last week. When I owned an advertising agency and bought printing for my clients, I was taught a lesson by my printing vendors. ‘’Faster, cheaper, better,’’ they would say, ‘’pick two.’’ Maybe this should also be a lesson for NASA.
WILLIAM ALTMAN
Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., Dec. 8, 1999

Google Books
New Directions in Project Management
Edited by Paul C. Tinnirello
Boca Raton, FL: Auerbach
2002
Pg. 190:
To keep these interdependencies in mind and in the minds of users, one IT organization uses the slogan “Good, Fast, and Cheap: Pick Two.” “If you want fast and cheap, then you cannot have good.” “You can have good and cheap, but then you cannot have it fast,” and so on. A key implication of the project management perspective is that IT professionals today more carefully manage the interdependencies begtween quality, time, and cost.

Film Production and The Money
Film Production: Faster Better Cheaper – Pick Any Two
MARCH 30, 2009
I just Googled “Faster Better Cheaper – Pick Any Two” for film and tv production and was shocked to see that no one’s (apparently) blogged this old adage.

Because old it verily is. About 1970 I saw an interview with Hattie Jacques, a veteran character actor who always played the dowdy Matron, Wife, etc. through the series of “Carry On ___” movies out of the UK. She not only used the phrase, “Faster-Better-Cheaper pick any two”, but she said that it was a mantra that she had been living for many years.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Saturday, August 25, 2012 • Permalink