Progress Report


Postal Delivery

Anyone who doubts whether the day of customer-driven government is here should consider the struggles of the U.S. Postal Service. It started a program to cut post office waits to five minutes or less and set standards of overnight local delivery and three-day delivery of cross-country mail. Three-quarters of the 40,000 post offices around the country are now offering customers service in five minutes or less. On-time delivery is 90 percent or better in Des Moines, Long Beach, Spokane, and other cities.

But in the Washington, D.C., area this summer, the Postal Service was delivering only 50 to 60 percent of the mail on time. Worse, postal inspectors acting on Postmaster General Runyon's orders discovered millions of pieces of undelivered mail at two Washington post offices. Some first-class mail addressed to the federal government had been sitting there since January. [10]

Similar problems surfaced in Illinois and Tennessee. The Postal Service clearly wasn't meeting its standards in these places. The leadership took action. It brought in proven managers. Hundreds of postal workers worked overtime, nights and weekends, to reduce the backlog. On top, they have a new Chief Operations Officer: Bill Henderson, who had met customer service standards in his position as Postmaster in North Carolina.

Is the problem fixed? No. Clearly there's more to do. Service is better, but not as good as the Postal Service wants it. So what's the lesson? Should we not bother setting standards?

In the old days, before standards and measurements, the Postal Service might not even have known where it had problems. And if it had, the brouhaha would likely have resulted in new rules and regulations for postal workers.

But today's Postal Service found the problems, worked overtime to remedy them, and put in place leaders who had proven that they know how to deliver the mail on time. That's the point of setting standards--agencies focus on what customers want and fix problems when they come up.


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