Solving Problems Without the Kitchen Sink

I considered another title for this post; specifically, “Solving Problems Like When You Give a Pig a Pancake.” However, unless you are privy to the theme of the referenced picture book, I didn’t think it would make much sense.

I first heard the phrase “kitchen sinking” in a counseling class that was taken by my then fiance. It is a play on the old adage about taking everything but the kitchen sink, but it was applied to conflict and problem solving. It was a great relationship squabble analogy, but I have come to see that it is a great analogy for problem solving in general. And just like “kitchen sinking” can muddy a conflict, it can also make problem solving an unwieldy and daunting process.

In keeping with the relationship theme, one of the first issues my new spouse and I had related to how we each clean a house. I tend to use a targeted approach. I first clean one room, then the next, then the next, etc. Yes, as I am cleaning the living room, I may notice a pair of shoes that needs to be in the bedroom. I either have a basket, or I would take the shoes to the bedroom and then go immediately back to cleaning the living room.

My spouse would begin in a room. Then he would find something that belonged in another room. While he was in the second room, he would go to put said item in the closet and notice the closet needed cleaning. So, he would begin cleaning the closet. While cleaning the closet, he would find an item that should be in a third room. While in that third room, he would notice that a drawer was cluttered, and begin cleaning the drawer.

I think you see where I am going with this.

It was relatively minor, considering that it was just two people cleaning the same house. But imagine a problem that involved a school or an organization or a business. Which would likely be more effective – the targeted approach or the “while I’m doing A I notice B, so I stop and start B, where I then notice C….” The latter is what I think of as “kitchen sinking” style problem solving. Some people call it chasing rabbits. And if you have read the book, you can probably see the connection to the pig and the pancake.

In order to be effective, we must be able to keep the big picture in mind, yes, but we must also attend to the task in front of us. There will never be a time in our busy lives when there is just one thing to do, but if we are unable to finish “just one thing,” we will always be scattered, ineffective, and three steps behind.

In other words, we need to drop the pancake and focus on the problem…we must clean the living room before we organize the closet. We must FOCUS.

And just in case you’re curious about that poor scattered pig: