Improvement Insights Blog
The Postal Service is Kaput
The postal service in my neighborhood is a hit-or-miss affair. And it started with a change in leadership. If you’re waiting on leadership to embrace quality, think again.
“I don’t know how the postal service is in your neighborhood, but some days it doesn’t come at all, some days we get mail on Sunday, sometimes the postal workers are not wearing a postal shirt and it’s like, “Who the hell’s walking up to my house to drop off the mail?”
“They recently changed the Postmaster General. He’s really proud that he’s cutting costs, but he’s killing his service. I tried to mail a check across town and it got lost. Probably got killed in one of their machines; it’ll come back to me in a body bag.
“So one of the things I’ve observed is that when you get a new leadership and they just start willy-nillying implementing stuff, guess what happens? The employees figure out that… guess what? He doesn’t really care about service, and so they ‘help you out’ with that. They are more than willing to ‘assist you’ in delivering poor service.
“All I can tell you is I’ve been in companies like U.S. West when it was bought by Qwest; the new leader killed it in about 18 months. It only takes a bad leader about 18 months to kill a company, to drive it into bankruptcy. U.S. West was almost in bankruptcy when they fired Joe Nacchio and brought in [Richard] Notebaert, who spent about six months doing healing throughout the company to bring it back from the dead.
“I’ve seen that internally. I saw this happen inside of the I.T. department when I worked there. They brought in a whole new leadership team for the I.T. department, they started changing everything and guess what? All the I.T. Department decided to ‘help them out,’ right? There was one group I remember: U.S. West Wireless, which was a cellular division. (Now I want you to hear the word ‘wireless;’ that’s because we didn’t understand things that didn’t have wires. It couldn’t be cellular, it had to be a wireless thing… so that was kind of dumb.)
“But anyway, they started going on the downward slide, and oddly enough people started taking laptops and computers and desks and lamps and all kinds of stuff out of the building. The security guard opened the door to help them out. Lots of stuff vanished.
“So I want you to get this idea: leadership is important, but so many of you are expecting your leadership team to suddenly salute the quality flag. No! That’s very difficult for a leadership team to really grab onto and go with. If you’re waiting for that… yeah, you know… good luck, right? You’ll be retired before that spontaneously occurs. There’s places like Virginia Mason Health Center where the leadership team has stayed in place for 12 years; most leadership teams churn over every three years, so you never get a chance to have a sustained Quality Improvement effort.
“If you want to improve quality, start doing it. Make some improvements, right? Just keep doing it. Don’t worry about who’s leading the charge. You be the leader. Make it happen.
“So anyway, that’s my Improvement Insight for this week: Don’t wait on leadership, just get going… just get going. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”