An agency’s purpose is usually encapsulated in their mission statement or statement of values. When there are multiple priorities, and potential conflicts, it is useful to have a written statement of “why” you do what you do and “how” you choose to go about the task. While purpose may evolve slowly over time, it is rare to have sudden changes in purpose. In fact, if you believe you are experiencing a sudden shift in purpose, you are likely experiencing stress or emotion, not change of purpose. When in doubt, let your purpose and values guide your decision-making.
Knowing what you believe to be true (and putting it in writing) guides strategies and plans for the future. For example, if you believe that punishment impacts behavior more than positive reinforcement, the environment and planned interventions for your community corrections program will be altered dramatically. If you get the principles wrong, it is tough to get anything else right. One of the toughest parts of this level is that, in general, skipping or skimping on any one of the principles weakens the entire set of principles and their associated interventions.
“Plan your work. Work your plan.” Great advice but easier said than done. You can’t operate a good community corrections program without a written plan. If you don’t have a written plan, staff will generally do what they think is right, but it is unlikely to be what you envisioned. Your philosophy and principles are your intentions, but without a plan of action, you will be lost.
In most cases, breaking a big plan into smaller steps is important. Without a standardized sequence of actions, your program will constantly be filled with confusion and chaos. Having written procedures (workflow) allows you to troubleshoot when a system breaks down. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “I provided a plan. I have competent staff. They will figure it out.” In fact, they likely will. Each of them will figure it out. Differently. It is much easier to identify where something went wrong when you can identify which steps were completed and when. You can spend the time needed to develop well-documented procedures or you can spend twice as much time putting out fires and solving problems.
“Practice makes perfect.” Wrong. Practice makes permanent. Taking the time to instill solid actions and practicing them until they are automatic is more efficient than allowing bad habits to develop and then trying to change them. Performance WILL become habitual. Will they be good habits? Not likely without consistent oversight, feedback, and continual practice. This is where the rubber meets the road. All of the good intentions, beliefs and values and solid plans cannot help a community corrections program that allows laziness, shortcuts, and apathy to creep into their practice.