US Postal Service Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2820 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Business - Management

¶ … United States Postal Service

Summary of Organization

The Unites States Postal Service (USPS) employs more than half a million civilian employees. It operates more than 30,000 individual post offices throughout the nation and delivers approximately 660 million letters and parcels to more than 140 individual delivery points every day, amounting to approximately 175 billion pieces of mail every year (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009). The USPS was originally conceived by the Second Continental Congress in 1775 in connection with which Benjamin Franklin served as the nation's first Postmaster General. The USPS is an independent federal agency; as such, it is considered the second largest civilian employer in the U.S. (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009).

Structural Framework

Working Units and Management

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In general, the United States Postal Service (USPS) consists of three subcomponents: headquarters, functional (i.e. administrative) staff, and operational staff (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009). Because the USPS is a U.S. federal agency, its organizational hiring rules, policies, and procedures are dictated by applicable federal codes and regulations that define all aspects of its structure and operations (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009). In general, as a federal agency, the USPS hires according to very particular formal assessments and qualification-based formulae that emphasize previous work experience, formal education, and specific elements of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). Those KSAs are evaluated by an objective system that solicits responses from prospective employees to questions about specific positions within the organization. An automated system determines initial eligibility for employment and the specific General Services (GS) civilian pay grade for which every applicant is eligible within the organization (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009). Once hired, working groups are assigned based on operational responsibilities and supervised by more experienced personnel at higher pay grades and (generally) longer tenure with the organization.

Term Paper on US Postal Service Assignment

Vertical Coordination

Managers of Postal Office Operations are responsible for approximately 75 district post offices and report directly to the District Manager. District Managers are responsible for 85 national postal districts and report directly to the Area Vice President. As is the case with most U.S. federal agencies, the USPS is organized in nine federal regions, which in connection with postal operations, are called Areas rather than federal regions in the manner that is more common among other federal agencies (

Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009; Watson & Wyatt, 2003). Every Postal Area is under the authority of an officer-level Area Vice President for that geographical region. The Area Vice Presidents report to the Chief Operating Officer, who reports, in turn, directly to the U.S. Postmaster General (Watson & Wyatt, 2003).

Lateral Coordination

Generally, the USPS is a highly centralized organization in that all USPS offices and personnel are uniformly subject to the same rules, policies, and procedures because they are determined by federal law and administrative policies implemented in agency headquarters (George & Jones, 2008). On a logistical level, individual local postal offices often coordinate hours of operations and various services to ensure optimal provision of services (George & Jones, 2008).

As is the case with many U.S. federal agencies, the USPS maintains multiple agency components in connection with its operational functions, external, and internal enforcement (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009). In that regard, the USPS maintains a Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) component and a Postal Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG) component. The former is a federal law enforcement agency that is principally responsible for investigating and prosecuting any crimes that potentially involve the services provided by the USPS; the latter is principally responsible for abuse or fraudulent use of USPS services as well as for internal compliance with applicable federal law. The OIG also maintains direct oversight of the USPIS as well (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009).

Structural Imperatives

Each USPS Area Vice President is responsible for nearly 100,000 employees per area and receives direct reports from each of 9 District Heads per Area in addition to approximately the same number of direct reports from executive level Area support staff (Watson & Wyatt, 2003). Each (of 85) District Managers is responsible for approximately 8,500 District employees and 4 -- 5 Managers of Postal Office Operations. District Managers typically receive direct reports from their Managers of Postal Office Operations, several Plant Managers, District Postmasters, and senior district support staff (Watson & Wyatt, 2003).

Nearly 400 Managers of Postal Operations are each responsible for close to 2,000 postal employees (Watson & Wyatt, 2003). They directly supervise up to 100 individual post offices. Approximately 28,000 postmasters oversee up to 2,000 employees and typically report to District Managers (Watson & Wyatt, 2003).

Structural Dilemmas

After an independent analysis commissioned by Congress (Watson & Wyatt, 2003) identified the need to implement four specific structural changes, the USPS undertook fundamental changes. Those recommendations were precipitated by findings that the specific responsibilities of the Manager of Postal Operations position lacked clarity and consistency, and that communications and directives issued from headquarters often cause confusion and duplication of effort (Watson & Wyatt, 2003).

More specifically, with respect to the issue of the Manager of Postal Operations position, that position deviated from the general concept of organizational uniformity and centralized control and positional definitions. Individual Managers defined their roles, responsibilities, and their direct reports in a manner that was excessively autonomous, especially in an agency where virtually all policies and protocols are defined by headquarters. The span of control exhibited by some individuals in this position exceeded and deviated from best practices and, partly as a result, the levels of support for the position varied considerably and unacceptably in relation to best practices (Watson & Wyatt, 2003).

More specifically with respect to the issue of confusion in relation to communications and directives from headquarters, Watson & Wyatt (2003) identified two different fundamental problems. First, changes in policies and protocols generated from headquarters and affecting operations management were not properly vetted prior to implementation. As a result, unanticipated problems manifested themselves only after implementation at the operational level. In addition to the operational problems that resulted, this dynamic also undermined the respect for headquarters among personnel and was responsible for diminution in morale.

Second, directives from headquarters sometimes conflicted with established policies and procedures properly established at the local level. This problem was attributable to a lack of communication and coordination between headquarters and postal districts in relation to initiatives generated by headquarters without any input from the field (Watson & Wyatt, 2003).

Structural Configuration and Restructuring

As a result of the 2003 analysis by Watson & Wyatt, the USPS adopted the following measures in accordance with the recommendations in that report:

1. Accelerated Network Rationalization -- designed to better coordinate the organizational structure to the actual demand for postal services and thereby accommodate demand fluctuations with appropriate reduction in the number of managers;

2. Increased Decision-Making Authority of Operations Managers -- designed to maintain the existing management structure but simultaneously incorporate the expertise and experience of Area Vice Presidents, particularly in relation to strategic management and decisions;

3. Increased Coordination between Headquarters and Area Staff -- designed to promote better integration of policy and procedure and to reduce duplicative efforts and redundancy; and

4. Implement a Consistent Cluster Model -- designed to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Managers of Postal Operations and establish the District Manager as the principal point of accountability for performance clusters.

Human Resources Framework

Organizational Assumptions

Generally, USPS employees range from the lowest civilian pay grade (GS-1) all the way to the highest pay grade (GS-15) of the Postmaster General and the heads of other U.S. federal agencies. Supervisory and managerial responsibilities are associated with the GS-13 pay grade and higher, as is the case throughout U.S. federal agencies (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009). The job descriptions and work responsibilities of each USPS employee is formally defined in great detail by the agency's headquarters rather than by individual mangers and supervisors in the manner that managers and supervisors typically contribute to those definitions in the private sector. Employee performance rating and measurement is conducted through a formulaic system that allows managers to rate performance on the individual elements of every position as that position is defined by headquarters. In that regard, employees are rated as having either failed to meet applicable standards of performance, achieving standards, or exceeding standards through exceptional performance (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009).

Advancement in the organization is automatic and time dependent for all employees who are (at least) meeting the applicable performance standards (Edwards, Wattenberg, & Lineberry, 2009). They receive automatic "within-grade" pay increases proceeding to consecutive "steps" within each pay grade after a specified time of service at each step. Where USPS employees are performing satisfactorily, they may not be denied their scheduled within-grade increases by managerial decisions. However, managerial decisions typically result in promotions from one pay grade to the next highest pay grade in much shorter time that would be required to progress through every step within a single pay grade.

Response to Global Competition

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