I recently learned that the US Postal Service delivers 47% of the world's mail, which is surprising since the U.S. accounts for less than 5% of the world's population. Sure, the $1.4 trillion mailing industry includes a fair share of "junk mail", but a the post office brings more than bills and ads to your doorstep.
In a new book How the Post Office Created America, author Winifred Gallagher argues that a national mail service is a core component of democracy. The postal service contributes to the free exchange of ideas by providing equal access to the 154 million addresses regardless of location, and provides a network of commerce that reaches to every corner of the country. Initially, the post office allowed for a robust political and civic culture and now has embedded itself as an essential public service.
Gallagher also acknowledges that the USPS missed a leadership opportunity to transform their role and remain a central communication hub after the digital revolution. She wonders what would it have been like if the USPS had coordinated equal access to broadband and email for everyone, just as they have provided access to mail delivery. If the USPS had evolved to service "mail" as it moved away from paper, would they have remained as relevant as they had been in the pony express days?
Think about your organization as it parallels the postal service. Are you focusing on the core service that you provide, regardless of the form it takes, or are you stuck in creating efficiencies for an outdated model? Have you become so embedded that you risk becoming invisible, and you need to do more to demonstrate your impact and value? Think about what you deliver now and how you will deliver it in the future.
Source: How the Post Office Created America by Winifred Gallagher, 2016 as reviewed in the (Minnesota) Star Tribune, August 14, 2016, p. E10.