Going Postal

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

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A few weeks back, the United States Postal Service declared an upcoming $10 billion loss and said it might need to lay off over 120,000 people. In an interview the president of the letter carrier association and number of other postal service officials discussed the reasons for the current situation. The following made me fall off my chair: “One of the reasons for our revenue decline is the Internet diversion.”

Excuse me? The so-called Internet diversion has been happening since 1994! Were all the USPS executives on vacation in Burma since then and are just getting back? How on earth could they fail to see the Internet, email, electronic signatures, billions of documents transmitted electronically, texting and Skype (for starters) as forces that might just make their slow land delivery of packages and junk mail obsolete? Not to mention the green movement, which makes us think twice before printing and mailing anything, and e-payments, which for many expenses such as utilities and credit cards takes away the need for mailing monthly checks. Who is running this show?

In an organization whose monthly budget is in the billions, were there any strategists who saw this wave coming and suggested trying to stay ahead of the curve. How about innovating with things like reliable online tracking like UPS? Sure, the Postal Service has come a long way in allowing customers to print postage online, for example. But when you are becoming obsolete, should you be hiring hundreds of thousands of people? With all due respect to the unemployed, keeping people in obsolete jobs is futile. Instead why do not we retrain our fellow citizens in jobs that can grow in the age of cloud computing, mobile computing and instant messaging?

Due to poor performance by executives and total lack of planning or congressional oversight, we are looking at massive, crippling layoffs or a government bailout.  The constructive ideas? No Saturday delivery. Seriously? Or can we possibly utilize some of the over $50 billion in cash reserves that the USPS is sitting on to retrain the many hundreds of thousands who are going to lose their jobs?

This “Internet diversion” is massive and life changing. Just using the word “diversion” shows you how poorly USPS officials understand what they are up against. The Internet is not a temporary thing diverting mail from their offices. It’s the new reality. Leadership’s lack of insight, knowledge and planning is at fault.  It’s an outrage. In the spirit of the Culture of Disruption, were there no employees who saw this wave coming and could have altered a leadership too complacent to craft new solutions for the changing world? Now it’s too late to ask those questions.  We’re left cleaning up after the tornado.

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