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By Brian J. Wagner
The Postal Service has been consistent in sending regular, positive communication in the form of newsletters to “deliver the brand” to postal computers throughout the agency. I agree with consistent and positive communication to postal employees related to best practices, office and employee successes, ways to improve decision-making skills and overall personal and unit performance that result in a more successful individual and, ultimately, Postal Service.
In August 2019—yes, two years ago—a USPS area newsletter referenced a new system of business processes called Operational Excellence. This was not a USPS-developed system, but a system of business processes the Postal Service implemented to promote employee empowerment, problem-solving and innovation at every level of the organization. Can such a system work in the current USPS culture? Here’s the scoop!
As reported in the 2019 newsletter, the Postal Service offered USPS leadership training in Operational Excellence. The one-year program focused on creating a culture of support, developing people, promoting problem-solving and coaching at all levels of the USPS that ultimately would drive value for its customers. I was very interested in the article, especially regarding the following quotes and comments of postal leaders who attended the training.
“Operational excellence is realized when every employee can see the flow of value to the customer and fix that flow when it breaks down. It’s about empowering our employees to make the right decisions for their work cell to improve performance. Instead of our traditional top-down style of management, Operational Excellence moves from the front-line supervisors.”
The article discussed that the training emphasizes employees have a right to succeed in their jobs. As one training attendee commented, “I’ve believed for a long time that we achieve our best performance when people feel valued and empowered. If we treat our employees as we would like to be treated, give them a voice through employee-led huddles and ongoing conversations and provide the tools and resources for the unit to be successful, then we create the base for employee empowerment.”
Another postal leader stated, “Operational Excellence is about giving an employee ownership, which also means allowing them to take calculated risks, and empowers that employee to bring their best self forward. Decisions are faster and problems are caught earlier because they are made at the line level where the problem is occurring. This type of thinking can help the Postal Service grow into the future. People perform best when they feel like they’re a vital part of a winning team.
If Operational Excellence is about giving employees the authority and voice to excel.” If Operational Excellence is a new USPS paradigm and cultural change in the workplace, then I am all for this cultural-transforming system. Empowering EAS employees to make decisions, learn from their mistakes, be respectfully held accountable, coached and mentored to a higher level of performance and recognized and celebrated for their personal and their units’ successes is the true benefit of employee empowerment. In today’s Postal Service, postal leadership should not be skeptical or even fearful of empowering EAS employees to make decisions for what a supervisor, manager, postmaster or other managerial personnel believe is best for their respective operations and units.
The USPS advocates employee engagement and, now, employee empowerment. This was apparent in the last paragraph on page 21 of “The U.S. Postal Service Five-Year Strategic Plan FY2020-FY2024.” It reads: “Creating great customer experiences requires that we equip, connect, engage and empower our employees to best serve our customers.”
At times, when a new postmaster general is appointed, previous Postal Service initiatives may, unfortunately, go by the wayside. When Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was hired in June 2020, I hoped the Operational Excellence system would continue. The need for such a system with the intent of developing EAS supervisory and managerial skills and empowering EAS employees to use their skills, postal knowledge and experience to make the right decisions never has been more important than it is in today’s Postal Service.
With all that has occurred in the USPS over the past 17 months—a pandemic, the 2020 general election, USPS organizational redesign, district restructurings, VERs, USPS RIFs and congressional hearings about the Postal Service—it was easy to lose sight of what happened to Operational Excellence. However, just when you think something of value has been forgotten or lost, the treasure is found when you least expect it.
I was pleased to learn during a Zoom meeting with the other resident officers that USPS leadership from Retail and Delivery is using the Operational Excellence system as a part of delivery and retail initiatives related to the USPS’s recently released 10-year plan. I said I was pleased the system did not go by the wayside and still was being used as a tool to help make the USPS successful.
Operational Excellence should be synonymous with EAS engagement and empowerment. When EAS employees are truly engaged and empowered, they feel valued, respected, trusted and part of the postal leadership team. EAS employees are a power team that will continue to bind the nation together during challenging and cheerful times.
Visit https://tallyfy.com/guides/operational-excellence to learn more about Operational Excellence’s 10 core principles listed below:
Principle #1—Respect every individual
Principle #2—Lead with humility
Principle #3—Seek perfection
Principle #4—Embrace scientific thinking
Principle #5—Focus on the process
Principle #6—Assure quality at the source
Principle #7—Flow and pull value
Principle #8—Think systematically
Principle #9—Create constancy of purpose
Principle #10—Create value for the customer
Now I feel empowered to share with cheer my August ice-cream-flavor-of-the-month recommendation: brown butter bourbon pecan.