For Your Approval, Please

The trials and tribulations of getting a written submission approved, summed up in a cryptic poem by Challenge contributor Annabelle Ng from the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office.

Explore the trials and tribulations of public officers in the form of a poem

Many public officers would be familiar with all the nuts and bolts of writing a submission or policy paper. We would likely have attended courses on writing and perhaps even memorised the typical structure of a submission: the aim, background, problem at hand, solutions to address the gaps, and so on. There are also many tools we need to get this job done, from the fundamentals of a laptop and email to Excel sheets and PowerPoint presentations.

Beyond the technicalities of writing a submission, I’m sure many of us also feel many different emotions throughout the whole process of getting written work approved. I’ve tried to capture these feelings in a poem below.

This poem seeks your approval to have fun figuring out what each line represents. (read till the end for answers)


Lines after lines, of

Dreams, padded with some history of what has already been


A few gaping holes, or perhaps none

But we can always reach for the horizon, grasp water that gives

Oil to our overture

Yet this means we must make

Promises, to the public

Flip open a spread of tiny prisons

Where I enumerate numbers

We hang ourselves on

A storyline framing my artboard

A growing line or two, cobbled

From my prisons

Shall success be to my successor

Unbeknownst to him the hoops

I stumble through

To play the thousand keys

For that one high


Rolling off the digital post

Into my veins

A shot of


Poem expressed by public officers explained

Annex: “Answers” to the Poem

  • Dreams - aim
  • History - background
  • Gaping holes - gaps
  • Horizon - solutions to address the gaps
  • Promises - KPIs
  • Spread of tiny prisons – Excel cells
  • Hang ourselves on - common expression for committing to KPIs
  • Storyline framing my artboard - how our PowerPoint slide titles need to have a narrative
  • Growing line - graphs drawn by Excel (prisons)
  • Hoops - clearance chain
  • Thousand keys - laptop keyboard
  • Note - submission
  • Digital post - email
  • Ok - approval
    Nov 1, 2021
    Annabelle Ng
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