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Banning The Word "Comprehensive"

Updated on March 21, 2017
jackclee lm profile image

Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.


Every so often when you listen or read the news, there is someone reporting or talking about comprehensive this or that... It may sound good but it rarely is. There are few exceptions when it comes to solving problems or dealing with complex issues. It has gotten to a point when I hear that word, my first reaction is they don't want to deal with it and it is just a good sound bite. I am proposing that we ban the word "comprehensive" from our lexicon.

-Aug. 2015

Problem Solving Options

When it comes to problem solving, there are basically three ways to do it. You can do it top down method (which is comprehensive), or bottom up method (which is reactionary) and finally pragmatically (which is the smart way).

The top down requires centralize planning, and studies and debates and very time consuming and costly and rarely gives the results that we seek.

The bottom up method is reactionary because it waits for a problem to surface and it gets the attention and it is taken on when things get bad enough. It is like a band aid approach to fixing problems.

Finally, the pragmatic approach is to take a step back and examine the issues and come up with a "smart" solution that may not be comprehensive but more incremental and it allows for corrections along the way. If one method does not pan out, another can take its place. The goal being to move closer to the solution at hand but not necessarily solving everything and getting everything right.

What Are Some Specific Problems...

In recent years, there are a few persistence problems that as associated with the term comprehensive. Here are a few examples.

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform
  • Comprehensive Healthcare Plan (ACA)
  • Comprehensive Education Reform (Common Core)
  • Comprehensive Tax Reform...
  • Comprehensive Climate Change (EPA)

Well, you get the idea. With the exception of the ACA and Common Core which are actually laws and are in the process of being implemented, the rest are all pie in the sky talking points. The ACA is not working out well as intended and the cost of healthcare has escalated and most people are dissatisfied with the plan. Yes, more people have health insurance but many of those are getting subsidies to pay for it. A 2000 pages law is complex and no one understand what's in it and what long term implications it may have on our health case delivery system.

Exception to the Rule

I am thinking back to all the years I've been living in America and have come up with only one item that deserves to be done comprehensively and it has succeeded. That was the Apollo mission for NASA to land a man on the moon before the end of the 1960 decade. It was President John Kennedy that created this mission. It took a combined effort of engineers and scientists and medical staff and years of training for the soul purpose of putting man on the moon. This unique mandate required a "comprehensive plan" so that all the components are working in sync to get the job done.


In almost every instant, a large problem is best dealt with by pragmatic methods. It is a way of cutting down the problem to size. Prioritizing the tasks and addressing them piece meal is the way to reach the end result. It may not be the most efficient or elegant but it will get you there and with less fanfare.

My proposal on immigration reform is one glaring example of how a "non comprehensive" plan is the right solution. We don't need to deal everything all at once. In fact, in this case, a step by step solution is better and more persuasive.

© 2015 Jack Lee


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    • jackclee lm profile image

      Jack Lee 2 years ago from Yorktown NY

      thanks for checking in.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      You make way too much sense. There is no room for common sense in today's world!

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Great way of thinking about it. Now when I turn on the news or Sunday talk shows, I'm going to wait to hear the word, "comprehensive." Good job. Shared.