I am a police officer. 

When people ask me, “So what do you do, where’d you work?”

I reply…

I’m a Policy Officer

And inevitably people mishear that as police officer.

Oh really!” they exclaim, looking me up and down with surprise.

Then I have to correct them, “no, sorry, POLICY officer.” and then explain what that is, because you can’t just plop those words in somebody’s lap and walk off. Generally I mime typing and say “you know, reports and that” and people gladly move the conversation on.

Regular readers of this blog will know that whatever I do I don’t hold it in high regard. This is because I can see that there is no line of sight between me and a customer/client/whoever so it is highly unlikely that anything I do is of worth in helping the customers of the organisation.

Not only that, I KNOW it can’t be of value because I am a corporate cog in a normal ordinary command and control management system, so I am based on flawed theory before I walk in the door in the morning.

So, I’m a policy officer (with attendant typing-mimes)

What though if I was asked a different question…

What problem do you try to solve at work?

This is the old “what problem are we really trying to solve here?” question, but applied on a larger scale to a job, rather than a situation. I love this question, because it focusses attention on the actual thing itself, the reason why you should be getting up in the morning rather than the bells and whistles when you get to work. This question allows you to talk about something useful and relevant, like reality and its attendant concreteness.

People with very real jobs like Mr Bun the Baker might reply…

I’m trying to make the tastiest bread and buns I can at the lowest cost

If I were asked this question though, my answer would be similarly opaque and round the houses cos I’d try to answer honestly in a POSIWID manner…

how to strengthen the appearance of data based decision making at a strategic level

Or more honestly…

how to balance creating the appearance of  being valuable, or at least polite, with the expenditure of least energy

The tricky thing is how to describe the problem you are trying to solve, without talking about the actual silly things getting in the way of you solving the real problem. At any moment in time the work I have to do has no impact on helping a customer solve a problem.  It is getting in the way of me solving a real problem, if one were to actually present itself. So the “problem I try to solve at work” is more along the lines of “the problem I try to solve cos there’s no real problem to solve at work“. A pseudo-problem.

As an aide memoire, the problem these people are trying to solve below is the bit on the right….

If they thought the problem they were trying to solve was the bit on the left, they’d be obsessed with the bearings and the trucks etc and wouldn’t be looking at the other bits of the problem they should be trying to solve, ie the bit on the right. How does the skateboard work in the context of what the customer really wants?

Looking at the bit on the right the skateboard is only one small component. The guy is wearing clothes, probably clothing that would be suitable for leaping over things


So the things that “they really want” could include trainers, a cap etc

These are things that fit into and complete the thing “they really want” cos who wants to be throwing sick moves in a pair of pants that your mum’s ironed with a crease down the front?


Or perhaps the thing “they really want” includes the obstacle on the ground, and the smooth ground itself. Cos if where they are it’s all grass, then there’s no skateboarding.

The thing “they really want” is a much bigger thing than a skateboard, so knowing that you make skateboards is one thing, but knowing that the problem you are really trying to solve is providing the customer with the thing that they really want helps you know find the right problem, rather than the problem you have right now.

Me? I am a policy officer trying to solve the problem of strengthening the appearance of data based decision making at a strategic level.

Hard at it.


This blog post very much inspired by Tobias Mayer  a thing he did called “What do you do?”. You could say it’s a blatant rip off. Think more homage, with added musings.



This entry was posted in clarity of purpose, systems thinking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to I am a police officer. 

  1. fatjacques says:

    Why don’t you leave and find something more fulfilling?


  2. Pingback: Five Blogs – 29 Augustus 2017 – 5blogs

  3. Frank says:

    Spare a thought for those of us whose jobs are so arcane that we have to explain them as “a bit like a policy officer.”


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