Table of Contents
Identification of the Organization 4
Size & Structure 5
Internal Environmental Factors (SWOT) 7
External Environmental Factors (SWOT) 11
Situation/Strategic Analysis 19
Organization Strategy 21
Reference Page 27
This strategic case analysis will look specifically into the operations of the United States Post Office (USPS). First a backdrop will be given describing the beginning of this historical and iconic organization. Then an overview will be given describing where the non-profit entity is today with focus on its vision and mission. Next, the interworking’s of the company’s structure will be examined closely along with its identified business threats. This will be followed up with an internal and external factor (SWOT) analysis based off of available information. Lastly, an in-depth look at the organization will reveal what environmental factors are affecting its operations in its current state. These factors include Demographical, Economic, Political, Technological, Sociological/Societal, Legal, and Systematic/Industry Factors.
Based on this research, along with a previously documented interview from one of the organization’s leaders, a situational/strategic analysis will be given on how the organization has responded to its external environmental factors and what the USPS has done within its Organizational Strategies to ensure sustainability thus far. Recommendations will be given to provide a path forward for this organization as it seeks to move forward and be successful in the future.
Identification of the Organization
With its beginning starting over two centuries ago, the U.S. Post Office is one of the oldest organizations in the world. Benjamin Franklin, the first Postmaster General, was appointed by the Continental Congress in 1775 (United State Postal Service, 2017). Since that time, the mail delivery system has continued to evolve with the technological advances of mankind. From the invention of the stamp, the mail and other parcel have been delivered by foot, Pony Express, automobile, and airmail. Through the decades, it has continuously grown and adapted to the environment surrounding it with an unwavering commitment to accomplish the task set before it, which is to render postal services to all communities. For this reason alone, it was appointed by the U.S. governing body in 1775 to provide the level of commitment needed to ensure all American Citizens receive their mail and in a timely fashion (United State Postal Service, 2017).
Although the USPS portfolio has changed quite a bit over the years to include specialized delivery types, its mission to faithfully deliver packages and other mail type items remains unchanged. The Postal Service as we know it today still tightly adheres to the original mission given to it by the Second Congress to ensure that mail within the U.S. is distributed and delivered faithfully regardless of the unforeseen circumstances. Though the years, these circumstances have gone on to include all kinds of extremely challenging situations, including inclement weather, ongoing wars, and threats of terror. Despite it all, the USPS has remained committed to the process and hasn’t reneged on its promise to faithfully deliver the mail even into the outermost locations. Although the modern USPS vision and mission statement is not an official motto, GTO (2017) confirms that it is still the same as the one appointed to it by the U.S. Government in Section 101(a) of Title 39 of the U.S. Code:
The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.
Size and Structure
The task of delivering mail in the United States is a very large one. Currently the USPS delivers to more than 156 million addresses nationwide, which is approximately half of all mail delivered worldwide (United State Postal Service, 2017). To handle this enormous labor intensive task, the organization owns the country’s largest retail network which employs more than 630,000 employees to support its evolving portfolio of products and services. From last year’s transactions alone, the USPS generated more than 71.4 billion dollars in operating revenue (United State Postal Service, 2017). The United State Postal Service (2017) boasts of its vast business accomplishment by stating that if they were a private sector company, they would rank 39th in the 2016 Fortune 500.
This is where the structure of the post office is one of kind, because it is not actually in the private sector… It is an extension of the U.S. Federal Government. However, unlike other government agencies, the USPS operations are not funded by federal tax dollars. Instead they rely on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations (United State Postal Service, 2017). In this sense, the USPS operates more like a business and therefore must compete for business in the private sector like other organizations do to stay in the black. Although the USPS monopolizes the mail carrier business by Federal Law, this does not change the fact that much of the package delivery service business is very much up for grabs. Since the USPS relies heavily on products and services outside of the Federally owned mail system to make ends meet, competitors become a major threat to the stability and sustainment of this self-funded government agency. Therefore, the organization must rely on its internal leadership to ensure the USPS service changes are in sync with the ever-changing new technological environment.
The USPS has had the upper hand on mail delivery for about 200 years now. In 2015 alone, it delivered about 154 billion pieces of mail throughout the U.S. and its territories (United State Postal Service, 2017). This independent government agency has held the monopoly on postage mail from the beginning since it was secured and mandated by the government to do so. However, this has not stopped the competition from competing for services such as package delivery. Unfortunately for the USPS, this list of competitors is ever growing. Below is a chart composed by Datanyze (2017) showing the current top competitors of the USPS to date:
|USPS vs. UPS
|USPS vs. FedEx
|USPS vs. DHL
|USPS vs. Fleetmatics
|USPS vs. PeopleNet
Top Competitors of USPS in United States
USPS is ranked #2 out of 15 Logistics technologies in United States.
Internal Environment Factors
Being instituted by the Federal Government definitely has its perks for this delivery giant. First, monopolizing the mail system allows the USPS to dominate that market completely. Secondly, it does this dominating tax free, which gives it an overwhelming advantage over other delivery competitors in additional revenues.
In addition to this, as stated earlier, the USPS is home to the largest retail network in North America. According to the United State Postal Service (2017), this network is larger domestically than Walmart, McDonald’s, and Starbucks combined. The sheer size and network availability gives the USPS a large advantage over any other delivery carrier. The USPS areas are already predefined and fully integrated into the communities they serve.
The USPS also dominates the competition with its name brand. What other organization in the delivery service market can say it has been around for the last 200 years? This along with the fact that the USPS has been commissioned by the government to ensure its mail and packages are delivered securely and on time, gives customers a sense of confidence when using their services. No other private sector company can come close to competing in this area.
Lastly, the Postal Service has gained a positive reputation for being socially and financially beneficial to the local community. Post offices are located in almost every town and community across the nation. Within those communities, they provide good jobs for not only local civilians, but also with preference employment for veterans and other transitioning military personal. According to the United State Postal Service (2017), they currently employ over 113,000 military members and veterans within the organization. This speaks volumes to the majority of Americans who look positively on companies that support the U.S. Military. Additionally, the Postal Service engages the local community by supporting many local charities and events (United State Postal Service, 2017).
Just as being instituted by the Federal Government is a strength to the USPS, it is also a weakness for this same reason. Since the organization is mandated by the Federal Government, it is limited to complete enterprise control like in the free market. It is under the dictation of what the government thinks is in its best interests. For example, in 1970 Congress chose to restructure the USPS into a self-financed governmental subsidiary (United State Postal Service, 2017). This was good for the taxpayer and the free market, but not for the USPS, as it lost federal funding as a result. With USPS, the taxpayer is not paying the bill for this government supplied service and the competitors continually take advantage of the USPS’s disadvantage in the free market being confined to less diverse products and services than what they can offer. Instead of supplementing the organization with tax revenue, the government instead regulates stamp price increases in hopes that the Postal Service will still function as it always has with the same workforce and benefits despite the lower demand for traditional mail.
Additionally, because the USPS is a government ran organization, it is seen by many as outdated and an inefficient way of doing business. In recent years, the USPS has been hit hard by critics that say the USPS is unchanging with the times. Perhaps some of this criticism is merited. According to Wheatley (2010), the Postal Service Postmaster General at the time, compared the current business model of the post office as outdated as the newspaper industry’s. Furthermore, he went on to say, “”Likewise, the postal service is in a situation where the behavior of America is changing and we have to fix and change our business model to adapt to it.” (Wheatley, D., 2010). The idea of the post office being overly regulated and fixed (which is true in some aspects) casts a large shadow of doubt that the company will ever be innovative to new ideas and services for the future.
The competition is at an all-time high for the USPS. The two main competitors, UPS and FedEx, are hitting the USPS in a very critical area, “customer satisfaction”. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (2011), both the UPS and FedEx outperformed the USPS by a comfortable percentage margin, 6 and 4 points respectively. This was driven by the customer perception that the USPS’s competitors are providing more convenience than the USPS services can provide. Despite the USPS’s past attempts to provide customer value, customers reportedly continue to feel the Postal Service is more of a hassle than anything else, and are therefore lured into the competitor’s image of providing better service. In addition to this, UPS and FedEx have historically had an advantage over the Postal Service in other key areas such as shipment tracking technology, and on-call pickup and delivery times which has only added ammunition to the competition’s image as the better mail service provider (Bhasin, 2011).
The competition level is set even higher than ever now as competitors continue to use the USPS to deliver their own packages because of its accessibility and lower cost. According to the United State Postal Service Office of Inspector General (2017), when addressing the fact that competitor packages are delivered by the USPS, his response was “[The] UPS and FedEx take advantage of the Postal Service’s Parcel Select product offerings, available to any bulk shipper that meets preparation and entry requirements.” Basically, the UPS and FedEx save money by avoiding unprofitable routes, and even though the Postal Service does see some addition revenues from this transaction, it is in the competitors advantage as the USPS is mandated to deliver mail to all regions, regardless if those regions are profitable or not profitable.
Another challenge for the USPS is in the area of sustainment. As the world continues to modernize to a more paperless, instant way of communication, a lower demand for the Stamp will just become more and more inevitable. Although the personalization of the Stamp will always have its place, financial difficulties will result from that loss in revenue. This is why it is important to understand the ever-changing external environmental changes on a business because bringing them to light will provide a way to make adjustments and allow that business to evolve with the culture. We will explore more on the external environmental factors below.
External Environment Factors
According to the United State Postal Service (2017), it encompasses a very diverse workforce as one of the leading employers, having some of the highest numbers in minorities and women. Although the USPS can boast about its very diverse workforce of gender and ethnicity, its customer base is anything but diverse. The demographic data captured from 2014-2015 showed that the active customer base is very focused into three groups: high income, Asian, and senior age (InfoScout, 2017). These narrowly focused groups that make up the vast majority of sales are great, but it poses a big problem for any business to have a customer base this is not large and diverse enough to support itself. Two big factors that stand out from the data is that the image of the USPS is not cost effective to the amount of convenience it provides. This is seen by the lack of business from lower income tiers, those looking to find a good deal. Secondly, the younger generation (most notably millennials) see the organization as all but obsolete, either from its current approach or the way it has always done business in the past. Regardless, the business approach offered by the USPS is unattractive to younger (future) customers.
The organization being out of touch with the age demographic is even more evident in the hiring practices and retaining of long time career employees. Statistics derived from 2012, showed a mouth dropping 80.6% of postal workers are between 45-64 years old and only 3.3% of the workforce was aged 25 to 34 (Wright, J., 2012). This is reinforced by the almost non-existence of part-time employment at USPS which is typically made up of a younger workforce. This hurts the organization two-fold as we will see in the economic factors.
Yes, hiring young part-time workers would give the outdated image of the Postal Service a much-needed update. Just as importantly though, it would reduce the overwhelming cost associated with long time career employees. As the influx of baby boomers begin to retire, younger full-time and part-time employees could begin to backfill their place. This sounds like a good plan, but not that simple in reality as the heavily unionized USPS workforce all but restricts part-time employment and therefore forfeiting most part-time labor affordability.
One of the huge financial strains faced by the USPS over the last few years can be contributed to its high debt burden as a result of having to pay prepaid benefits in advance. The 2006 Congressional mandate requires the USPS to “pre-pay” into a fund that covers health care costs for future retired employees (Lee, B., 2011). Unfortunately, this makes almost every year since then show up as a net loss after the annual payment of $5.5 billion. The debt itself comes from two sources: First, the large number of career employees eligible for retirement and health benefits and the almost nonexistence of younger workers to pay into that retirement fund. Secondly, this payout of benefits is mandated by the Federal Government to the requirements that have been prescribed by congress. According to the United States Postal Service (2017), “such losses are likely to persist for the foreseeable future because of mandated costs such as an unaffordable retiree health benefits program that is not fully integrated with Medicare, and an ineffective pricing system.”
Not only has the expense of a large retirement age workforce put a strain on the organization’s economy, but the U.S. economy itself has had a huge impact on the mail delivery giant. Because the USPS is required by law to deliver mail to the inner and outermost parts of the nation, the sheer size of this organization makes it especially vulnerable to changes in the market. Rolando, F. (2015), reported in Newsweek that “The Postal Service is based in the Constitution. It’s critical for businesses and rural areas…It’s the centerpiece of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry that employs 7.5 million Americans in the private sector.” We know that this is true because it was observed that while the nation was still feeling the impacts of the 2008 great recession that the USPS lost 10 percentage points alone in 2009 (Rolando, F., 2015). The delivery system economy is a large market, and the recession had huge impact, multiplying to the problem of reduced sales and less income for the USPS.
In recent years, the Post Office has been the center of much political debate. Since the USPS is a government vested entity with its operations in direct visibility to the voting public, many people have strong feelings on how their role in government should be defined. There are differing views in Washington for this reason as well. While all agree that the mail must be delivered, the role of the government being involved in this process is up for debate. As discussed earlier, in 1970 the USPS was mandated by congress to be self-funded. Since then, the Postal Service has been successful in this task of balancing its budget. However, with the onset of financial difficulties in recent years, it has many in the government and private sector questioning the validity of the 200-year-old instated government service. One far side sees the USPS as a service that has outlived its time. They see it as an over paid, over budget, and over ran government monopoly that shuts out healthy competition. They believe the Postal Service would be better served though complete privatization. The other far side sees all the benefits the government mandated service provides. They believe that even though the service has seen financial difficulties in recent years that these can be contributed to lower demand for the stamp, but have pointed out the recent growth in online shopping and package deliveries (Rolando, F., 2015). There are these two very different views and then there are views everywhere in-between. What both sides in the government and private sector can agree on is that the current laws are in great need of reform. Whether this reform includes the instatement of tax funding or not is very much part of the heated debate. It is ultimately up to congress, and indirectly the voters who put them there, to decide the way in which to implement the reform. The fact still remains that Congress ultimately retains the most influence in the direction and future of the USPS.
Technology has been not only a challenge for the USPS, but for most large companies in general when trying to stay up with the times, especially at the fast rate of technology advancement experienced in recent years. As stated earlier, the USPS has historically struggled with having an edge over the competition in this area. The USPS has realized these challenges and has recently implemented changes to improve the customer experience in technology. The United State Postal Service (2017) currently states on its website that “We’re transforming our business by anticipating and embracing future changes in technology and mailing preferences. Through research studies and strategies, we’re actively and continually looking at ways to meet the new challenges of today’s mail and shipping needs.”
What tends to be overlooked in the area of technology, however, is exactly what great technology has been developed and already exists at the Postal Service. The USPS is home to the third largest high speed internet access IT infrastructure in the world, Advanced Computing Environment (ACE), and enhanced security through an advanced security system called the Enterprise Physical Access Control System (ePACS) (United State Postal Service, 2017). In addition, the USPS has done a fantastic job of creating innovative technologies to meet the challenge of collecting, transporting, processing and delivering the nation’s mail. Most notably is its world dominance in optical character recognition (OCR) technology. These machines read approximately 98 percent of all hand-addressed letter mail and 99.5 percent of machine-printed mail (United State Postal Service, 2017). Furthermore, the USPS owns an assortment of over 8,500 pieces of automated processing equipment that sorts nearly half of the world’s mail. This list includes all types of conveyors and sorters, not to mention the largest gantry robotic fleet in the world, composed of 174 robotics systems…All used to move 314,000 mail trays each day (United State Postal Service, 2017). The purpose of all this technology and equipment is to fulfill the ultimate goal of maximizing automation which in turn will maximize efficiency and value back to the customer.
Just like the digital age has produced a new scene of everything instant, the mail delivery system has taken on the same mission. Everyone in the digital age prefers email, text, or instant messaging over paper mail because it’s quicker and can be tracked and stored in a more efficient manner. Everybody wants the advantage of pushing a button on their phone to make an order and the package to be delivered the next day. What it really all boils down to is the convenience factor in modern society, and the electronic formats are winning the war over paper. This cultural trend for fast paced digital media has placed a lot of pressure on organizations like the USPS to become more user friendly and instant in its transactions. For this reason, the USPS has attempted to conform to the cultural trend by beefing up its online tools with the USPS.com website and USPS mobile app in hopes of making shopping at the USPS as convenient as possible.
It is important to note, however, that just because everything is going digital, that does not mean paper will go away completely for the USPS. A perfect example of this is in the mailing of a letter. There is something sociological about getting a paper letter in the mail versus a letter by email. They both can communicate the same message. The difference is the mailed letter seems more legitimate and personal since it is in a physical form. Therefore, the physical mail will always have its place in society to some degree and will be the future business for the USPS.
Just as the USPS responds to these socioeconomic effects from society, it also emits its own Societal contributions. Some of these are done because of the expectation from society. For example, society expects a large organization, especially one affiliated with Federal Government, to be open and transparent in all its dealings. The USPS proactively answered this expectation by stating on its website that the USPS has an unwavering commitment to ethics. The United State Postal Service (2017) states that it “demands an unwavering commitment to strong ethical values and principled decision making from all of its employees. All postal employees are required to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain.”
Beyond its commitment to conduct business in a fair and uncorrupt manner, the Postal Service seeks to display its commitment to being an integral part of American society through diversity inclusion and community involvement. As stated earlier, apart from lacking younger employees, the USPS has a diverse workforce of different backgrounds and ethnicities. It also successfully integrates itself in the local community by being actively involved in community benefits and charities. According to the USPS website, there are numerous charity and community events of which the local Postal Service is actively involved.
Lastly, the USPS has further displayed its all-inclusive theme by compliance to the “No FEAR act” a law designed to designate federal agencies to be free from discrimination (United State Postal Service, 2017). Below we will explore more of the external environmental legal factors that affect the USPS.
The USPS has an elaborate firm of lawyers at its disposal to provide legal representation to ensure it is in compliance with city, regional, state, national, and international rules/regulations. These areas stem over a wide range of topics such as labor and employment, commercial, torts, economic regulation, and finance (United State Postal Service, 2017).
Obviously, the political process comes with its own line of legalities that the USPS must strictly adhere to as it is spelled out in the constitution. Some of these have already been mentioned such as the mandates to fully service the U.S. in delivery of mail and the agency shall be self-sustaining. In addition to these laws there are approximately 200 other federal laws in place that protect the sanctity of the U.S. Mail (United State Postal Service, 2017). The USPS places a high value on safeguarding the nation’s mail through federal agents in order to ensure this mandate is brought into fruition. Because this burden is placed squarely on the shoulders of the USPS, it demands extra time and effort that would not otherwise be mandated on a privatized company such as FedEx or UPS. This is a great responsibility and sets them apart from any other mail carrier service. This gets us into the last external environmental factor with a comparison of the Systematic and Industry factor
Up to this point we have looked closely at how the USPS differs from private sector mail and parcel service industries. Because the USPS is an extension of the Federal Government, it will always perform a little differently than the private sector companies. However, putting that aside, the organization (currently) still has to operate like a business and not a Federally funded organization. This is where the two entities become very similar, the private sector and the USPS most both function effectively for their sustainment. This means that each organization in the mail service delivery system must generate new business from current and new customers. Whether that is the USPS, UPS, FedEx or some other organization, they must all generate and maintain customer revenue in order to pay operational costs, and show a profit on the bottom line.
For the mail service industry, there is the challenge of meeting the customers’ expectations. The new generation of customers demand an acceptable price for mailing and shipping. Along with the lower price, the mail service industry must balance both value and convenience for its customers. Both the Postal and Parcel services must first focus on adding value in the midst of reduction in mail volumes in order to compete for current and future customer retention.
The common denominator for the success of this industry involves digitally connecting with customers who are looking for lower prices and greater convenience and then providing them a seamless experience for buying, receiving, and returning products (Buhler & Pharand, 2017). As mentioned earlier, the competition is thick, so the company most successful at implementing this process will in the end be the most successful company; However, this will require a new way of thinking in the mail and parcel service industry.
After much research and an in-depth interview with David Ponder, the local Post Master where I live, I was able to identify some key aspects of the USPS. I will first start with what things have gotten in the way of this organization reaching its goals. One thing that David mentioned in the interview that caught my attention was the word “fixed”. From what I have discovered from my research is that there are certain aspects of the USPS that are in-fact unchangeable without the intervention of Congress. Policies put into motion by congress are truly out of control of these organizational leaders. For example, the paying out of prepaid benefits for future retirees being mandated by congress in 2006 was and still is out of the control of leaders within the organization. This is a “fixed” financial burden given to the USPS over a set period of time and has definitely been a big hurdle for the USPS to jump over, especially with the ever-lowering demand for the stamp.
Just like in other companies, there are “fixed” operational expenses such as transportation costs, compensation, and benefits; then there are “controllable” income and expenses. All organizations are faced with this challenge to some degree, but what is important to get out of this example is the word “controllable”.
When David spoke of the many things being “fixed” and out of his departmental control, it was in context with my question regarding “change implementation”. This is important to note because David realized early on what was within his control and what was not. The lesson I learned from him is that you absolutely must change what you do have control over. The important thing is that you see the need for the change and then once it is identified, move strategically toward that goal while staying within your power. The biggest hurdle for David, however, was not mandatory allocated funds by congress, but the dilemma of changing the culture. I see this from the USPS research as well…Historically the organization culture has been stagnated to change. Resistance to change has been by far the greatest obstacle to overcome for the organization in my observations. Nahavandi, A. (2015) puts it like this, “Culture consists of the commonly held values within a group of people… Culture has permanence; it does not change easily and is passed down from one generation to another.”
This is exactly what David was experiencing with the attitude of his followers thinking the old way of doing business was just fine. David had to help his followers see that the changing of times has change the demand for their line of business and what their customers now expect from the mail and parcel delivery service industry. Therefore, he helped them see the overall objectives and how that not meeting those goals would result in them not meeting their goals of career longevity.
Just as David had to begin the culture shift for change, so the organization as a whole had to do in order to be in alignment with the times. The organizational leaders began to take a look at what the organization did well such as having the largest retail network in North America, and utilizing it to do more than just deliver mail. By doing this they were able to find new ways to bring in addition revenue through First Class Mail and Package Services. Then they looked at their weaknesses in comparison to their competition and began to evaluate ways to retain those lost revenues by focusing on the “controllable” incomes.
Unfortunately, many of the financial woes being experienced by the USPS today following the market crash in 2008, could have been mitigated to minimal impact if a change plan had already been in place before then. However, as we will look at next, the organization leadership did step up to the challenge following the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and they are currently continuing to take strides toward the goal of self-sustainment and profitability.
The business model proceeding the great recession of 2008 merely focused on three areas: Pricing, Volume, and Revenue. With the combination of the market crash in 2008, the accelerated decline in stamp sells revenue since 2006 and the vulnerability to the market because of its sheer size, a change in focus began to emerge as USPS leaders began to concentrate on what was in their control. The leaders did a great job of thoughtfully putting together an action plan that was more than just a typical action plan, it was a vision. In fact, the United State Postal Service (2017) records the strategic 5-year plan rollout in 2008 based off that very notion, “Vision 2013”.
I really admire the corporate leaders’ approach of choosing to cast a vision. It’s easier to just tell followers the direction in which the organization should move, but these organizational leaders understood that it takes vision to produce the desired action and end result. “Vision 2013”, though not perfect, did set the blueprint of a 5-year strategic plan that has countered many of the obstacles that were facing the organization.
In many ways, the “Vision 2013” 5-year strategic plan was unlike any other plans presented before its time as it was both a self-evaluation tool and an action plan rolled into one. It first identified the weaknesses surrounding the organization which were economic uncertainty and lower demand for services. Then it identified the root cause, which was the organization’s current poor business model. The CEO at the time, John E. Potter, did an exemplary job of defining the concepts that would lead to the organizational goal of a “Viable Postal Service for Future Generations” (United State Postal Service, 2017). This road map contained three main pillars constructed on its strengthened foundation, “Focus on What Matters Most to Customers”, “Leverage Our Strengths”, and (most importantly) “Embrace Change” (United State Postal Service, 2017).
Looking over “A decade of facts and figures” on the USPS website, it’s clear the leadership vision did have an effective impact on the organization as we can see a steady decline in postal revenue by the nature of its decreasing demand, but at the same time, we see an impressive increase in shipping revenue, up from 3.3B to 5.2B. As a result, the bottom line operation revenue remained healthy and practically unchanged over the period of the last ten years (excluding prepaid benefits). The conclusion of this data is that great efforts were made to make the mailing processes more efficient, even though that did inevitably lead to some workforce reduction. Secondly, we see that the organization caught the vision that other services would have to be further developed and made priority in order for the organization to stay afloat. Unfortunately, though great effort was given to the actionable plans set by the leadership in 2008, the USPS has just managed to survive a decade, but not thrive.
After looking at all the research, the burning question still remains, can the USPS thrive as it once did years ago? To answer this question, I will refer back to the interview with Post Master David Ponder. Thinking back over our conversation, I remember something else that stood out to me as David was explaining how he was striving to change the organizational culture at his Post Office. First, he did just like the corporate leaders did in “Vision 2013”, he explained where the organization needed to be for sustainment and what that result looked like to the personal goals of the employees. But then I remembered that he gave them specific examples of how to do this. He explained that going the extra mile with the customer meant being more personable in mail and package deliveries and that overtime should not be abused in any way so that their operation could operate more efficiently and competitively. So, the answer is yes, the Post Office can once again thrive, but it will have to stem from a continued culture change as this is the driving factor.
From this example, this is my take away. It’s one thing to give a vision for change and even offer a way to improve the future results from those ideas. However, it is a totally different thing altogether to make those plans actionable. For this reason, the vision should be put in a strategic plan that has specific measureable outcomes. By setting an obtainable goal for the organization, even if the organization doesn’t meet that particular goal, it gives the firm a target to work toward and ultimately results in mindset changes of the culture.
I feel the USPS has done a great job in the past of defining its strengths and weaknesses, but extra effort should have been given as it focused on new opportunities. Generic and broad statements such as “Embrace Change”, are great to get followers in the mindset of where the organization needs to go, but it has to be tied to a specific objective if it is to ever have an impact. “How are we going to embrace change?” should be the questions the leaders should ask themselves. The planned approach for change the USPS used with 5-year plans is a great way to begin forecasting change. At the same time, there needs to be measureable results tied to that forecast.
The leaders at USPS have historically done a great job in their SWOT Analysis by identifying the organizations internal weaknesses such as the regulatory and financial burdens placed on them by the government and the problem of having more eligible early retirees than younger age bracket workforce. They have also done well to point out the external threats such as lower stamp revenues from the increasingly digital age and the increasingly competitive market. What is has not been as significant until more recently, is the focus of the organizations internal strengths and the external opportunities that are available.
Just like David Ponder mentioned putting the customer first. The USPS as a whole has got to get back to doing this. The dissatisfaction associated with inconvenience has cost the organization a lot of money. A simple way to start implementing change in this area would be to begin surveying current and future potential customers. Next, use this data to figure out how the public sees the organization and then use this data as motivators to drive change. We already learned from the research that customers demand lower price and convenience. The company can work toward these goals, but how does the public feel about the USPS altogether? The new generation of customers may want to see more digital media interfaces such as mobile apps for the iPhone/android. Or, the newer customers may want to see some new younger faces. What’s important to know is just simply advancing technology may not be the answer. There could be something very simple and more cost effective to implement, but you will never know until you have found out what the customer actually wants.
Regardless of the survey outcome, it is safe to say that a strong focus in technology and convenience will have to be the two of the top priorities. As the culture around us gets more and more digital, customers should expect the USPS to hold fast to this change as well, especially if the organization is to ever be seen as legitimate for modern day services.
Next, I would recommend that leaders implement a 2-year plan instead of a 5 year. A lot can happen in just two years and five years just seems to dim for the immediate focus because it is just too far into the future. After the planned change vision has been cast, I would recommend freeing up finances in any way possible in order to afford the next part of the Strategic Plan. To do this, since around 80% of the current revue goes toward compensation and benefits, I would suggest offering an early retirement plan to the current career workforce and then bring in a new younger and viable workforce.
Once, the available finances have been freed up, I would have the leaders develop three cross functional teams. These teams would work between the layers to provide an overarching cultural change synergy needed to advance each level. The first team would be over innovation and would contain a panel of leaders from each aspect of mail delivery system to first become a think tank of ideas. Then, the best of those ideas would be placed into actions with measureable metrics. A second team would focus on performance and would be tasked with creating a matrix to ensure the company is moving forward in cost efficiency and supplying the funds needed for innovation in technologies and customer service (the first team’s role). Lastly, an accountability team would be instituted to help place ownership in key areas around the entire organization to ensure a culture of accountability awareness is established corporate wide. Those are my recommendations for USPS.
The bottom line is that the USPS is in control of its own destiny. If the organization successfully implements positive changes within its culture, it will be successful. If done correctly, the final product will be a lean innovative organization that focuses on valuing its customers by offering convenience along with its high-quality goods and services; This would also include providing these quality goods and services at a reasonable price. Once the organization has reached maturity in the culture of change model, it will become part of the organizations very makeup and fabric. If this happens in the near future, the USPS will be around for many years to come, even without the aid of the federal government.
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