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Office Quest

This journal is part of a series on living and working in Singapore.

If you ever played one of those old 80s text-adventure games, you’ll remember with frustrated fondness how difficult it was to make yourself understood. This is because the program only understands a limited and specific set of vocabulary and procedure, and has very little appreciation for context. What a sense of accomplishment and possibility when you finally stumble across the right formula and the game allows you to progress!

Bureaucracies are like text-adventure games.

You find yourself in an office. What would you like to do?
>> Ok, so what are we trying to do here?
You can TALK TO COLLEAGUE, REQUEST MEETING or ACTION DELIVERABLE. What would you like to do?
>> Talk to colleague
Who do you want to talk to?
>> Talk to researcher
The researcher is in a meeting. Try this afternoon.
>> Talk to supervisor
“Have you got anything to show us yet?”
>> Ask supervisor what they want me to do
The supervisor asks you to produce a report for the department meeting.
>> Get background paper
You read the background paper. It refers to a research survey that has since been carried out.
>> Do you want me to interpret findings?
You cannot INTERPRET FINDINGS without the survey data.
>> Get survey data
The survey data has been emailed to your computer.
>> Go desk
You are at your DESK.
>> Use computer
It won’t log in.
>> Use login details
It won’t log in.
>> Get login details
You already have them.
>> Log in with login details
You can’t do that.
>> Call helpdesk
You call the helpdesk but no-one answers. Would you like to LEAVE MESSAGE or REMAIN ON HOLD?
>> Remain on hold
After a while someone answers. “How can I help you?”
>> Get help to log in
“Do you have a login account?”
>> Give login details
“It seems your account hasn’t been activated yet.”
>> Activate account
“I need a JOB REQUEST FORM”
>> Give job request form
You don’t have it.
>> Get job request form
How do you want to get it?
>> Get job request form from intranet
It won’t log in.
>> Get job request form from supervisor
The supervisor is in another OFFICE.
>> Call supervisor
You are already on the phone.

Later that week…

What would you like to do?
>> Get email
You get the email. There is a SURVEY RESULTS attached.
>> Get survey results
You got them. What would you like to do?
>> Interpret findings
I don’t know how to do that.
>> Interpret survey results
How do you want to INTERPRET them?
>> Request meeting with supervisor
You now have a MEETING with SUPERVISOR.
>> Go meeting
You are in the MEETING.
>> Ask what to do
The supervisor asks you to produce a report for the department meeting.
>> Ask what the report is for
“The report is for the department meeting.”
>> Ask how to interpret survey results
“That’s what we want you to do.”
>> Get help
You can get more information from the intranet.
>> Go desk and get help from intranet
It won’t log in.

Next week…

You are at your DESK. What would you like to do?
>> Procrastinate
You fiddle with your phone for a while.
>> Get coffee
You get a coffee.
>> Procrastinate
You fiddle with your phone for a while.
>> Go toilet
You use the bathroom. That’s a relief.
>> Procrastinate
You have already done that enough.
>> Read survey results
You can’t understand them.
>> Get help
What would you like to do? You can TALK TO COLLEAGUE, REQUEST MEETING or ACTION DELIVERABLE.
>> Action deliverable
You email the supervisor a draft research report. The supervisor has requested a meeting with you.
>> Go meeting
You are in the meeting. “This report is good but it doesn’t align with our key priorities.”
>> Get key priorities
The supervisor gives you the key priorities.
>> Get key priorities in plain english
I don’t know how to do that.
>> Interpret key priorities
How do you want to interpret them?
>> Interpret supervisor
The supervisor commissioned two surveys and now realises they study different samples and ask inconsistent questions but wants to justify to the department that the research was worthwhile by telling a story that links the two and makes the right recommendations.
>> Get recommendations
You get the recommendations.
>> Use recommendations and key priorities on supervisor
The supervisor is impressed.
>> Action deliverable
You email the supervisor a research report. Congratulations, you have unlocked a new level!
>> Go home and get drink

Bureaucracy is an international language, it seems. ◾

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