It’s rare when an article moves you to a thorough understanding of any issue but Adam Hartung’s “Why the Postal Service is Going Out of Business” in Forbes is one of them.
The lessons also apply to all aspects of government, association and nonprofit service.
As to the Post Office Hartung writes that, “There are few organizations as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service. But operational efficiency is insufficient for survival in today’s competitive marketplace, and almost impossible to create success!”
For that mere $.44 they will deliver your hand crafted, signed message anywhere else in the entire United States and is fantastically good at operational improvements.
He points out that all this is done with a union workforce and reasonable executive compensation and they understand what the Post Office must do and do it extremely well.
But we are all aware that the Post Office has fallen on extremely hard times and is in the process of laying off thousands of workers and closing a multitude of Post Offices.
The Post Office didn’t really do anything wrong. With electronic mail the market shifted. The Post Office simply isn’t as valuable as it once was.
“More, better, faster, cheaper is NOT enough to compete. Being operationally efficient, even low-cost, is not enough to succeed in fast shifting markets where customers have ever-growing and changing needs.”
So how does this apply to government, associations and nonprofits?
Our world is constantly evolving and like the Post Office we run the risk of not changing to meet new challenges; we don’t rise to meet new expiations of the public.
Most reading this will quickly point out that the US Post Office always had an economic model that puts it into completion with business and that doesn’t apply to the rest of us.
We live in an age of people questing our services. Government or associations or nonprofits are always expendable until they close local charities, schools, fire and rescue or law enforcement.
Yet all of the cited examples have undergone significant budget reductions thus relevancy of even basic services are being questioned. Not having the money to pay “is” questioning relevance.
The task for all organizations is to prove their worth in the day-to-day lives of the people we serve. Detroit automakers lost it, mainstream news media lost it and so can we.
Believe that there is anything permanent about what we do? Think again. There is little that we do that cannot be contracted out to new people and new methods. We may bristle about the prospect and believe that there are good reasons to keep things intact but there are few if any who cannot be replaced by new business models.
Relevancy means making sure that we meet the expiations of the people we serve and that they know what we do to assist their everyday lives.
This is why leadership must understand what’s important to its constituency and deliver genuine, user-friendly products to prompt operational understanding.
This is why social media is so important. This is why the creation of a conversation soliciting opinions and the willingness to embrace criticism becomes vital to good government.
There are too many instances where organizations communicate values not recognized by the people they serve.
Not displaying value and relevancy is a possible reason why people look at organizations and question their existence. People need to see, feel, touch and smell relevancy. Without it we become questionable fixtures.