As more of these articles appear, I believe that the postal community will see an important trend in postal management that bodes well for the health of the organization. These articles suggest that the Postal Service is beginning to take greater public relations risks in finding ways to reduce costs. By making changes that will generate some vocal individuals, businesses or organizations to use old and new media to draw attention to the potential downside of the change, the Postal Service indicates now that it has little choice but to take the heat that significant cost reduction will create.
The articles also suggest that the Postal Service is giving local managers significant flexibility to choose which cost reduction options they implement. In doing so, the Postal Service will have a wide range of cost reduction options implemented with just as wide a range of efforts made to minimize service disruptions and changes in customer satisfaction for each option implemented. The Postal Service has a significant learning opportunity if it chooses to use the actions of each local manager as a teaching opportunity with a focus on one question: "what could have been done better to ensure that service changes minimize the impact on consistent service quality, labor-management relations, public perception of the Postal Service, and customer satisfaction?" Compiling answers to that question after every cost reduction effort and making that information available to the next location thinking about implementing a similar effort on an ongoing basis through a wiki or internal operations improvement blog, while the changes are being implemented, will ensure that all others implementing a similar change or about to begin implementing a similar change will be able to continuously improve the implementation of operational change.
These articles also illustrate a challenge for postal labor as they begin dealing the numerous operating changes that will come in the near term. Even though the economy is weak, the Postal Service's financial difficulties may be sufficient to counter traditional arguments and political efforts to save jobs. Labor leaders may need to look for different approaches to help their members deal with the transition that is occurring. For example:
- Given that the Postal Service will likely want to reduce head counts at a higher rate in the rust belt then in the rest of the country, unions may want to begin developing programs with management that encourage or assist workers in transferring to faster growing regions.
- Labor leaders should also talk to their Canadian colleagues in the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) about their efforts to develop proposal to compete with management efforts to outsource activities in order to develop work rules and other contract provisions that would allow the the Postal Service to cut costs by bringing work back in house.
- Labor leaders should also use their knowledge of postal operations to look at what what types of work processes, work rules, or wage levels would be needed for the Postal Service to profitably provide services that pre-sorters and other firms collecting, preparing, and transporting currently do. Then labor should work with management to both implement those changes and support introduction of the new higher revenue products that would compete with firms now doing these activities.
If all of these stakeholders, management, labor, and mailers become active participants in the transition to a more efficient, more consistent Postal Service, all can end up as winners. A focus by all stakeholders on both costs and service consistency, could improve the Postal Service's competitive position as the premier, measurable-impact, communication method. The future of the Postal Service depends on it.