NC Postmaster: USPS Must Re-Evaluate Its Management Culture to Face Challenges Ahead

The following are excerpts of comments by North Carolina Postmaster Mark Jamison submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission regarding exigent rate case :

The truth is that until the PRC, the Board of Governors or Congress are willing to
truly look at how those measurements are constructed, reported and managed
they will never know the true state of the Postal Service. In the Five Day case
you were given customer survey data that reflected a certain resignation on the
part of the public to a set of equally poor choices. In that case some of the
surveys asked which, given a choice of rate increases or reduction in delivery or
perhaps closure of a local facility, a customer might find preferable. The results
that were publicized clearly showed a preference for reduction in delivery days.
But was that really the choice? You have before you this exigent rate case in
addition to the reduction case. The strategic plan currently publicized by
headquarters includes several parts that are portrayed as essential in total.
Those parts include reduction in delivery, rate increases and rationalization of the

In recent years the Voice of the Employee surveys have been used to portray the
mind and sentiment of the work force. Yet when those surveys are administered
managers are told to instruct employees to provide either positive or negative
responses and to avoid neutral responses. Survey behavior and administration is
a well studied field. Encouraging or discouraging particular choices by an
authority figure administering a survey has certainly been shown to influence and
perhaps limit the effectiveness of the results.

The EXFC measurement system is designed to measure the effectiveness of the
delivery network. All over the country postmasters, supervisors and management
personnel have been detailed to make second trips and extra trips to deliver
missent or misdirected mail. I have personally, at the direction of my manager,
driven less than a foot of mail to an office thirty miles away at a cost of over $100
to avoid the possibility of an EXFC failure. I have gone on missions of even
greater futility, once driving an empty mail tub on a ninety mile round trip in the
middle of the night to satisfy a nonsensical protocol. These are not isolated
experiences, they occur every day all over the country. Under these
circumstances EXFC may become less a measurement of network efficiency
than a demonstration that we can develop extraordinary and wasteful protocols in
search of satisfactory numbers.

What these examples show is that the old aphorism that one measures to
manage can easily become a culture of managing to the measure. I do not cite
these examples to claim corruption or even incompetence. I do think they
demonstrate a management culture that has become a prisoner of a deleterious
institutional groupthink.

If the Postal Service is to successfully face the challenges ahead then it must be
willing to re-evaluate its culture.

Even if the Postal Service is able to resolve the issues surrounding its payments
to Treasury, even if the Postal Service is able to repair and reinvigorate its
management culture and if even if the Postal Service is able to capitalize on
some of its more promising revenue opportunities like providing last mile delivery,
it will still be saddled with a business model that is essentially unsustainable.
Following the current direction will not solve the challenges that confront the
Postal Service. The current recipes for recovery or sustainability still rely on a
bad fit between the promise of the Universal Service Mandate and a business
model that relies on downsizing. It has been argued that perhaps the Postal
Service could enter into some other businesses, that it could find additional or
alternative revenue streams.

In today’s polarized political environment there is virtually no business solution
that will offer the Postal Service sufficient additional revenues to meet future
challenges. Some countries, like Japan, assign basic savings bank capabilities to
the post office. At one time we did too but that isn’t feasible today. Neither would
it be realistic to think we could offer the Postal Service some opportunity to
compete with the private sector in some areas. We already have a rate and
regulatory structure that is far too cumbersome. The reality is that the Postal
Service has done best when it complements rather than competes with the
private sector as the example of recent successes with providing last mile
delivery for UPS and Fed Ex.

It is unlikely that we can downsize the Postal Service and still meet our goals of
universal service without ultimately being placed in a situation of requiring
increasing subsidies or rates. Mail is still an important part of the American
economy, especially for those at the lower end of the economic spectrum and
those in rural areas. Mail will continue to be important but volumes both of first
class and advertising mail will continue to decrease. Bill presentment and
payment will increasingly move to electronic alternatives and direct mailers and
marketers are in the business of selling. Their loyalty is to what works at the
cheapest prices. As data mining allows them to be more selective and mail less
for better response and as electronic and alternate media forms develop, their
businesses strategies and models will shift – one should also not discount the
possibility of do not mail initiatives returning if advertising volumes actually did
increase substantially.

Mail will continue to be important for at least another generation or two but any
model based on volume is bound to fail and if we raise rates and cut service as is
proposed we may accelerate the decline of the Postal Service without providing
for those who will need its services for years to come.

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11 thoughts on “NC Postmaster: USPS Must Re-Evaluate Its Management Culture to Face Challenges Ahead

  1. micromanaging is a classic symptom of excess management.people naturally push paper to justify their positions.this leads to redundant,inane policies that aren’t even remotely my office ,the postmaster has been out delivering mail after 5pm at night,just not to show a craft worker out after 5 pm.go figure.
    to be fair,the union goes along with this.they are enablers.

  2. the reason this exfc measurement even exists,is because there are too many you rise into the executive ranks,you become a glorified ‘bean counter”;you don’t have any mental/problem solving duties,that is if you call saying yes,yes to your superior bean counter.if you get rid of the litany of these slugs,you will de facto become more efficient,because you won’t have the excess people trying to justify their jobs by just moving paper.very simple.

  3. The amount of money paid to IBM for the EXFC measurement cound be sent on some supervisors to drop the EXFC pieces which could more acurately finf were are our failures.

  4. Amen, Harvey! You said it all! Nobody wants to “think out of the box” in the upper echelons. They just want to micromanage operations from afar and come up with “new ideas” every day that are many times counterproductive in so many ways, and I have no doubt that THEY would not be able to execute their own ideas themselves if they were forced to do it, but they have no trouble telling others to do so.

  5. Great article. The culture of the PO does need changing on both sides of the coin management and labor. Management needs to reduce its layers of managers and supervisors and labor needs to reduce cost to a standard wage. I know this isn’t the military, but a standard monthly salary like the miltary has would greatly increase the efficiency of delivery of mail for the Postal Service. We all know carries who ride the clock long after their route is over. Having a standard monthly salary would solve that issue. Management can reduce the requirement for a Post Master in every city or town and assign regional Post Masters and make their station managers earn their pay by making decisions. We don’t need 5 supervisors for 44 carriers. The culture of the PO needs a complete over haul….

  6. In addition to the EXFC comment, I delivered a priority envelope on my route which originated less than two miles away and since the relocation of mail processing it took two days. I was and still am disturbed by this because I have seen carriers written up for leaving a potential EXFC letter on their case yet a same zip code priority envelope within 10 city blocks (2 miles) took 2 days. Whats wrong with that picture. Fix the problem, catch local packages, especially priority and express mailings and do in house processing.

  7. I wholeheartedly agree with the above article. I have been employed in management prior to becoming a postal employee. I am currently a carrier. I was a 204b for ten months, I took and passed the test to become a regular supervisor but the freeze was ongoing until recently. I gave up my 204b position because I realized that the PO really doesn’t care about the dollars in running a business but rather numbers of potential EXFC letters, CDPOMS, pivoting more routes. I worked with a supervisor who would schedule a TE to work two separate routes in a day to show we were pivoting. It did not matter that gas at the time was near four dollars a gallon and the TE had to travel (paid for not delivering mail but travel time). Supervisors were afraid to think for themselves, what senior staffers said was all that mattered no matter how ridiculous. Another thing that frustrated me was being a supervisor of 35, 40 people you are dealing with different personalities and being a front line supervisor you should be aware of your employees. Someone who never met an employee or set foot in your office shouldn’t tell you how to manage. Pay the supervisor and if at the end of the year the financial picture does not improve than move said supervisor out of that position. Competent supervisors without wasteful micromanaging would be a step in the right direction. Competent supervisors would end the need for micromanaging plus reduce cost associated with paying the person doing the micromanaging. ONe thing the PO should look at is city carriers should perhaps be more like rural carriers and do away with supervisor extra pay. Increase salary for supervisors without extra pay. Whether they work 40 hrs or 80 hrs same salary and if its not what they want then quit. Think about those potential savings. Least we forget it’s the dollars at the end of the year and some numbers.

  8. And management salaries should be drasticaly reduced. The USPS can NOT afford to pay for these redundant postions. The office of PM should be completely eliminated for starters. Line supervisors should at least have to be literate. If you think I’m kidding, before I retired I knew several that could not read, write, or tell time. Special hiring process for these people. Time to start over.

  9. Great article. The waste created for EXFC measurement just to make a quota is totally unneccessary. The PO does not have to reduce service to cut cost. The biggest change needed is in how labor is paid. All mail is priced by volume, size and/or weight but delivery is paid by the hour. There could not be a system more inefficient than this. The entire delivery labor force pay system needs to be restructured and standardized.

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