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Car Wash Icebreaker
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 11/09/2015

Car wash
The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

For corrections, times are tough and resources are scarce. Effective use of all tools available to us is crucial in attaining our mission of safety for the public, staff, and offenders. How can trainers impart the very important lesson of coordination to a classroom?

The answer is simple. All one need to do is apply a small, simple model. Enter the concept of washing cars.

How hard can a car wash be to coordinate? On the face of it, there is no problem. Of course, we have yet to introduce the human factor.

The facilitator instructs participant to suppose that they are going to be part of a volunteer car wash. In this scenario, cars will roll up in a line and each will be systematically processed like on an assembly line. The cars will be washed and dried by hand by four or more workers.

With the scene set, the instructor gets input. Without consulting neighbors, each person will write down a specific car part that they will volunteer to wash.

(In a modification of this, the instructor can provide a simple car chart like one would find on the damage section of a rental car agreement. Participants can simply mark an X on the specific car part that they will wash in the assembly line.)

Now the facilitator collects the answers and lists them on the board. There is bound to be overlapping responsibilities and areas that will not be attended. For example, one class may have three people volunteering to wash the grill. This is a one person job. In the same sampling, there may be no volunteers to wash the hood, something that could be considered a two person job.

The facilitator will then ask if anyone in a crowded area will volunteer to move to a part of the car that has no washer. It all depends on the crowd, of course. But, the facilitator can expect to find resistance and possibly a “this is not my job” mentality.

The instructor can then ask if there are better ways to wash a car. Answers may vary. Not all car washes are alike. Some are automated, touch-less wonders. Others are do it yourself, coin fed varieties with a nozzle, brush and multiple settings that you control. And when you think of charity car washes, a hand wash is what generally comes to mind.

The instructor can point out that the same is true of agencies. No two function in quite the same manner. Common to most state agencies are field office, prison, and administrative functions. With preparation ahead of time, the instructor can compile agency distribution of staff between these three parts of the whole and have participants guess.

In a car wash or in various corrections agencies, resources and division of labor are undoubtedly different, even if the mission is the same. Still, coordination is key in wise utilization of resources. And a simple icebreaker like this can illustrate the importance of preliminary planning.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


  1. Sohailkhatri on 01/20/2020:

    Finding that perfect car loan requires personal car loans you to carefully put together all your income and expenses and then preparing your budget.

  2. keatonjefferson on 09/15/2019:

    This thread was a good one, but the discussion wasn't a lot about car wash icebreaker. I am working at the east texas ford company, so I need to see more discussion on threads like this. It will be beneficial for my work, and that's what I want.

  3. StephanieCasey on 04/01/2019:

    Joe Bouchard thank you for this informative post on Car Wash Icebreaker at www.quickrevs.com.au. This entire blog and the post here is really impressive, appreciate the share, look forward to reading more on this.

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