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Hello, My Name is Problem.
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 11/07/2016

Bouchard problem
Have we met before? My name is problem. You seem familiar. In fact, I remember you from just about every difficult time in your career. How should we deal with each other in this round?

Corrections offers, even heaps, many challenges upon all who enter the profession. And there are many that we cannot really do anything but react. We are largely helpless to fiscal strategies, political appointments, influx of new offenders and societal trends.

Certainly this is not a sunny forecast. That does not mean that we are necessarily helpless. There are simply many variables.

Just as rain will fall on us, so too, will problems of all sorts. Here are five general sets of questions to apply to all varieties of that which vexes our profession:

Know the history – Has the problem occurred before? How was it handled? Was the resolution successful? Might the method work again?

Know the players – Who are the players in the open? Are there any behind-the-scenes agents of fortune? Do they work in competition or in complement? What sort of leadership (if any) may be needed to assist the players?

Know the ripples – When you throw a large stone in a pond, ripples flow outward from the point of impact. But what is the pond like in this scenario? What are the ramification of a hard and quick strike versus one subtle? In other words, are you using a sledge hammer to kill a mosquito? Do you know the possibilities and probabilities of your actions? Will addressing the problem in a certain way be worth the consequences?

Know the aftermath – What are the contingency plans when the solution is implemented but is not effective? Can you truly know when the problem is solved when you do not have a definition of success? What are the preventative measures for the next round of problems?

Know yourself – How are you looking at the problem? Is it in line with those on your team? Are you a solo artist at heart or a team player as needed? When you look at all of the questions posed above, do you dive head first or hesitate?

So please remember my name. I am problem. You will never know when I will return or how often I will manifest. Despite those unknowns, I will definitely return. What you choose to do about me is up to you.

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

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