The world today is faced with ever present, intricate change. This requires that organizational leaders react fast and competently to change to ensure the success of the organization and its future existence. Leaders who prepare for change and redefine the future are even better off. This essay discusses the concept of organizational change and the need for organizations to move from the conventional way of doing things to a more rigorous and engaging way that fits with the ongoing global changes. This is done so in order for the organizations to survive in the stiff competition posed by other players in the industry, enhance performance and ensure survival. The United States Postal Service Corporation is put on spotlight. Its financial and structural shortcomings are assessed and its position in the package delivery business today with tentative recommendations for change in its structural and operational procedures to help it maintain a competitive advantage in the industry. The essay also incorporates Kotter’s change model and its application not only to the USPS but also to other organizations’ (public or private) survival in today’s changing global economy.
In this ever changing contemporary world, it is becoming increasingly necessary for organizations go through some changes at one time of their development course or another in order to keep up with the global pace and intricacy of change to reinforce performance. Change is a product of internal and external factors that impact on the performance of any organization. This requires organizations to adapt, change or completely transform (Pryor, Taneja, Humphrey, Anderson & Singleton, 2008, p. 5). Change thus calls for new enterprises and enhancements to the normal way of doing things in order to stay on top or ahead of others in any industry. Decisions also have to be made pertaining inevitable changes.
According to Weiss (2012), organizational change also known as organizational development, refers to alterations pertaining to an organization’s culture, capacities and even operational structures (p. 19). As opposed to change in past times, today’s change is fast, radical, simultaneous, and intricate, globalized and needs urgent reactions. Thus change is defined in terms of extent to which the change happens in an organization and the speed at which it occurs. In this regard, organizational change is the movement of an organization from the current state of affairs to a coveted state characterized by efficiency and productiveness (Weiss, 2012, p. 8).
The change agent should comprehend the background of the change movement. Change is not just about reality and details. Leaders should not only think about the current state of their organization but also make long-term and short-term decisions about its future. Often, after recognizing the need for change, many leaders do not know where to begin from or how exactly to go about achieving the desired change (Weiss, 2012, p. 17). The only way to accomplish lasting change is to make sure that the organizational culture integrates aspects of the change. The people in the organization have to be involved in such a way that they believe in it, they feel part of it and experience or live it. Similarly, an organization should not just stumble on change. Rather, it should be spearhead change. It involves confronting the obstacle, instituting a new order and retaining it (Weiss, 2012, p. 23).
Structural lethargy, traditional workgroup patterns, threat to status quo, board of directors and past change efforts gone awry are some of the common challenges in an organization that can be barriers to desired change. As McNamara (n.d) states it, these can be overcome by enlighten the people on the compulsion for change, specifying the disparities between the existing state of affairs and the coveted one and communicating positive expectations for change (p. 2).
Overview of USPS
United States Postal Service (USPS) or U.S. Mail is an independent government courier agency founded in 1775. It is one among the few government sanctioned corporations offering postal services in the United States. USPS happens to be the second greatest public employer in the country and also runs the biggest vehicle exhibition in the globe. It has privileged access to letter boxes. It is actually the biggest public competitor in the package delivery business with private rivals like FedEx and UPS (USPS.com, 2008).
Headed by the Postmaster General, the company has eleven members on the board of directors, nine of which are presidential appointees vetted by the US Senate. The corporation enjoys several privileges under first amendment like, immunity to suits, prerogatives to contract postal agreements with other nations, and a privileged legal mandate to provide first-class and third-class packages. USPS’ purpose is to provide the Americans with dependable worldwide postal services at pocket friendly prices. Though other courier service providers can allege to avail broader services, the USPS is however the sole carrier with the legal mandate to provide all the assorted elements of worldwide service at subsidized rates. Thus the corporation enjoys the monopoly (USPS.com. 2008).
Nevertheless, the company’s revenue has drastically dropped since the beginning of the 21st century owing to the deterioration in the amount of mail, feeble economy, and the channeling of large sums of money to the internet. In the 2008 financial year, mail quantity fell by 4.5% and 2.8 billion revenue loss (USPS.com. 2008). This has made the corporation to think of other sources of revenue while at the same time shelling down the expenditure to overcome its budget inadequacies. For instance in December 2011, the company declared that it will shut down over half of its mail sorting points, cut down mail delivery services by a day, do away with 28,000 jobs and stop quick dispatch of first class packages. The closure of the centers alongside other 3,700 residential post offices is rescheduled for March 2012.
Similarly, there have been endless debates on privatization of the Postal Mail to incorporate competitive private contractors into the task of delivering mail even to the remotest areas. Thus, with or without the subsidized rates, Americans will still get services at whatever cost. Adaptations, streamlining operations, doing away or reducing the monopoly will definitely disturb the conventional order. However, this will have drastic effects on the company and the public (Antes, Folger & Della Noce, 2000, p. 4).
Considering that USPS enjoys monopoly of delivery and does so at fair rates, it would be expected that it becomes the preferable choice of delivery for everyone. However, UPS and FedEx have become the household names and whenever anyone thinks of sending something nowadays, these two private companies always come to mind. While these companies have a large loyal customer base, they are nevertheless recent and more expensive to USPS. However, no matter their charges or shortcomings, people still feel comfortable working with them. Can the same apply to USPS? Much as marketing has played a big role in ensuring the two private multinationals stay on top of the competition, it all boils down to change. Change is a survival strategy without which an organization relinquishes its competitive advantage.
The world market is experiencing crisis at every turn resulting into the necessity for many organizations, and in this particular case USPS, to adjust to arising situations. For instance the recent financial crisis resulted into a number of structural changes in an effort to endure such as closing down centers and laying off employees (Antes, Folger & Della Noce, 2000, p. 32). Similarly, companies all over the world are experiencing the hardest competition ever owing to the technological advancements witnessed in the contemporary world. However, USPS has for some time been experiencing revenue decline too. The corporation is also facing the challenge of attracting and retaining a good workforce while customer interest also continues to decline. Financial adjustments alone become inadequate to make USPS stay in business for longer. Thus there are needed necessary changes to the basic fabric of operation so as to close the performance deficit, make it stay in the competition and reclaim its past glory.
Some of the corporation’s aims and objectives have not been achieved as anticipated while some demands remain unfulfilled. Public declaration of losses, staff layoffs, hefty pay increases for top management have greatly impacted on the morale of USPS workforce. This has resulted into bad blood between unionized workers and management. Some have culminated into violence like the 1990s highly publicized shooting spree by postal workers making them gain fame as highly homicidal workers likely to suffer from mental illnesses (Antes, Folger, & Della Noce, 2000, p. 25). Thus it becomes necessary to institute changes to pacify the disgruntled workforce such as extending the staff layoffs to top management.
With the wake of new advanced technology, it is necessary that the corporation adopts bolder state of the art technology in order to be more productive and less costly such as internet mailing. There are various opportunities rising in the package delivery market that the company can identify and go after so as to reinforce its aggressiveness in the industry for instance diversifying the market and products (Pryor, Taneja, Humphrey, Anderson, & Singleton, 2008, p. 11).
The ever increasing external pressure from customers, the competition, new regulations and mailing needs, shareholders, the pecuniary markets, coupled with internal pressure from leadership and employee organizations, attracting and keeping a productive workforce makes change inevitable in order to address these pent up pressures. USPS ought to stretch out its services instead of cutting them down. As the sole organization that delivers everywhere in the country even on weekends, USPS ought to make uses of its treaty with the private companies and extend the same arrangement to internet services.
USPS can decide to change for the benefit of change. This could mean for instance complementary measures like reshuffling its board of directors and appointing a new Postmaster General, preferably one who has served in the military during the tumultuous years of the country’s history, who has an enhanced commitment to service, employee confidence, and a productive working approach in these hard times (Antes, Folger, & Della Noce, 2000, p. 30).
Since other companies are making changes like massive reorganization at FedEx, it becomes necessary for USPS to try the same. It has nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Due to the waning customer demand for some services, the corporation should let go of desolutional services and markets i.e. several postal offices in a small, affluent neighborhood, stop budgeting for such and instead embark on innovation and new expeditions The change may require that USPS further stabilize its mail distributive opportunities and shuts down some local post offices especially in smaller geographical locations with many post offices. This is a difficult but necessary move as it will amount to job losses and more opposition.
The company can begin by rethinking its purpose, vision and ploy. By considering what and where it would like to be, saying ten years down the line, the company should seriously consider change in order to retain its competitive advantage and remain active in the industry.
Kotter’s 8-Step Change Plan
Change is not easy. This is because organizations have complex cultures that govern their corporate behavior in such a way that suggesting a change in the status quo in itself is an obstacle to development. Similarly, there is no easy proven way of ensuring organizational change. However, there are changes models that can be employed in an organization and make change successful and take their organizations to a better level. John Kotter, the management guru, provides a 8 step strategic management model to assist managers in effecting change to its vision and the organization as a result (McNamara, n.d.). In this approach, change undergoes phases each of which last for a certain period. However, errors committed during the course of a phase could affect the prosperity of the change.
According to Kotter’s approach, people naturally opt for the status quo and change, which signifies uncertainty, makes them uneasy. Similarly, things which people are not sure about tend to be viewed with distrust and that is precisely why people steer away from change (Weiss, 2012, p. 85). Employees should be made aware of the urgency for change and be encouraged to venture beyond the comfort area and embrace something contemporary, unconventional or sophisticated to realize change such as online mailing.
Second, management needs to advocate for and invigorate change. The USPS Postmaster can choose to handle resistance to change on his own or simplify things by procure other people’s assistance. The best way to address resistance to proposed changes is to engage a strong team of managers to work with employees and politicians and encourage them to take part in the change (Weiss, 2012, p. 88).
At the same time, it becomes necessary to have a clear plan of action to prevent the employees from going back to the comfort zone of doing things the usual way. This means establishing a clear vision on the change to impel and reassure people on the future of the organization.
Similarly, the Postmaster General ought to communicate this change to the people in simple but clear, workable terms by explaining their vision to ready people for the change. This information should reach everyone in the organization and be part of their daily undertakings. This way, people will be aware of the anticipated change and be less resistant (Pryor, Taneja, Humphrey, Anderson, & Singleton, 2008, p.11).
Concerning empowerment, people ought to be stimulated or motivated to change their status quo and take on contemporary expeditions by connecting them to the vision. People will be more responsive if they are first taught how to affect change and then equipping them with the necessary accessories for that change (Weiss, 2012, p. 93). For instance if the company is to take on new technologies like internet mailing, employees ought to be informed on how the company intends to go about it and their input, equip them with knowledge on emailing and they are good to go. Employees will thus feel part of the change as they can impact on the vision. As a result, new concepts can be stimulated and prosper. This way, management is able to work on the organization’s vision through getting rid of obstacles to the change and urge risk taking and creative thinking (Pryor, Taneja, Humphrey, Anderson, & Singleton, 2008, p.11).
Implementing change takes time. Along the way, there will be diversions. Motivation becomes necessary to keep the momentum and encourage the organization to move towards the desired change. Organizations need to contemplate, institute and recompense employees who make the effort to embrace the new desirable order through promotions and changes in job descriptions (Antes, Folger, & Della Noce, 2000, p.3)
Resistance is inevitable. However, the most important thing is to solidify accomplishments in the organization so that as resistance to the change continues to wane, management continues to monitor the status quo while continuing support for the new change by making the necessary reconciliations to achieve the desired results (Weiss, 2012, p. 87). This will include assimilating outside elements such as mergers with private companies on weekend deliveries and online ventures into the new mainstream so that it does not appear alien to the people.
The corporate culture should mirror the new modifications. It means USPS molding the organizational culture to the new change. It rewards to keep reminding employees on the necessity for the change and the importance of maintaining it to avoid a situation where people revert to doing things as they used to as though the change is not worth it. This implies making the change indefinite by illustrating the link between the new order and the prosperity of the organizational change (Pryor, Taneja, Humphrey, Anderson, & Singleton, 2008, p. 11).
Thus, other than reducing the workforce, USPS can also foster behavior change by embarking on training its management and workforce to equip them with advanced shipping skills and techniques. New operation and techniques of doing things ought to be introduced to enhance performance. Most importantly is having an extensive overhaul of the organizational structure in a manner that it becomes more perceptive to the o surroundings and more so to the ever changing market (Antes, Folger, & Della Noce, 2000, p. 6)
This means serious contemplations on decentralizing the decision making process. Finally, for the company to continue succeeding there is an urgent need to try and change its organizational operational nature. This includes management and leadership styles, values and beliefs. This is actually the most difficult thing to embark on and achieve but it is unavoidable for survival.
It should however be noted that it is not just the corporate responsibility of the board of directors or top management to impact change and revolutionize the USPS. The company exists for both the leaders and the employees and all the Americans and it keeps advancing. Thus it should be the collective task of both employees and managers to take the full ramifications of change and not the concept of one group leading while the other follows timidly. Employees, as assets, ought to fully and enthusiastically participate in driving the change.
Even after following Kotter’s change model diligently, change is neither automatic nor easy. Owing to the various dimensions, structures and complexities present in organizations, challenges emerge with every step. However, leaders should acknowledge this and mold their approaches to spread over the duration of the change endeavor. It involves mindful plotting and establishing the appropriate infrastructures for the change. Most importantly, they should be committed to ensuring the change is realized as planned. In this regard, harmonized change dynamics combined with hard work and patience become the sole practicable way forward for the company and the sooner this is began, the better. However, the sense of seriousness should be maintained and strong change oriented leaders be brought on board to get rid of hindrances. The organization’s vision should be revised and disseminated adequately.
Antes, J. R., Folger, J. P. & Della Noce, D. J. (2000). Transforming conflict interactions in the Workplace: Documented effects of the USPS redress program. 18 Hofstra Labour & Employment Law Journal, 429, 1-3.
McNamara, C. (n.d.). Organizational change and development (managing change and change management). Web.
Weiss, J. W. (2012). Organizational change. San Diego, CA: Bridge point Education, Inc.
USPS.com (2008). Vision 2013. Web.
Pryor, M. G., Taneja, S., Humphreys, J., Anderson, D. & Singleton, L. (2008). Challenges facing change management theories and research. Delhi Business Review, 9(1), 1-20.