The post office is nearly bankrupt, the cost cutting is not working. We are in danger of losing a service that is vital to many small businesses. So while other business blogs are looking at this situation and wondering what went wrong, I’m asking “what can we learn?” The postal situation is not unique and what it highlights is how the wrong type of organizational culture can kill even a giant like the postal system. Small business can learn three very important lessons from the postal debacle:
Never hire anyone you cannot fire
This should go without saying, but the best way to ensure that you will have an underperforming employee is to guarantee that they can never be fired. There has been a lot of back and forth about merit pay, but continually expecting an employee to strive is a win-win for any organization. You create an environment for innovative solutions, employee growth and increased morale. As managers we set goals and applaud when goals are exceeded, but what do you do when they aren’t achieved? Part of being at the helm of the organization is knowing when someone isn’t a fit; giving them a job in perpetuity hurts your business present and your business future.
Be proactive about change
The one thing that has stuck out as the most missed element of the situation is the slow response of the post office to technological advances. While the post office has come up with a website and some kiosks that allow you the convenience of off hours mailing, it wasn’t rolled out nationwide and that hurt. The website, even today, isn’t completely automated and there are still services that you can’t complete online. That defeats the purpose of an online tool. In essence they forget the key rule for creating new products, they didn’t ask “will this make the post office easier to use?” Now the post office is playing catch up and in the world of technology that means you are already too far behind to play.
Eliminating jobs won’t solve the problem
The post office has already cut 110,000 jobs and yet they still haven’t solved the problem, what happened? Well the answer is very clear to me, eliminating symptoms does not eliminate the cause. The post office has operational problems, outdated processes and rigid employment contracts. Eliminating positions tackles only one aspect of one problem. Eliminating more positions and reducing service is not going to make a difference. To really solve the problem you have to find the source and that means looking at the post office as a whole and creating solutions that address the whole system. So when your organization looks like it’s about to implode remember to look inward and create solutions that take into account what you need, what you have and what you want.