Time to Change the Message

Persons who’ve heard Postmaster General Louis DeJoy speak more than once note that he tends to use the same format every time:

  • First, trash your predecessors, dismiss critics, and blame them all for the “mess” you found when you arrived.
  • Next, explain how easily you determined the solution and developed your 10-year Plan.
  • Finally, declare victory by saying that your executives and entire workforce are ”energized” by your initiatives and that turning around the USPS is within reach.

Along the way, keep referring to (1) anyone who isn’t dogmatically committed to the Plan as “resistance” and “noise,” (2) the PAEA’s ratesetting system as “defective,” and (3) the Postal Service’s trucks as always carrying a lot of air.

Recently

The latest demonstration of the pattern was in a July 27 address to the American Enterprise Institute, a DC think tank.  In his scripted address, DeJoy repeated his familiar themes, following his customary format, as exemplified by the quotes below:

“... we had endured a defective pricing model that was allowed to exist for fourteen years, basically subsidizing our mailing industry to the significant detriment of our organization ...

“... the lack of action or the existence of any plan, and the ongoing stakeholder resistance to any plan ...

“... the Postal Service existed, and in almost all cases was deterred by, a universe of stakeholders and pundits that has very little awareness or interest in the consequence of years of parochial, political, and self-serving directions toward the institution ...

“... just about every action from everyone involved promoted a status quo environment or miscalculated action that sent the Postal Service backward while the nation was moving forward.  For instance, defective pricing prolonged by the PRC ...

“... lobbying by mailers and competitors against the most meaningful management operating, pricing, or service initiatives ...

“... postal management had been significantly affected by stakeholder interest and views regarding its ability to make changes ...

“... users of the system would develop unrealistic and unlimited expectations ...

“... the same resistance roared louder when I got here and got louder as we attempted to make change ...

“... we had not met our delivery standards in the past ten years ...

“... 55,000 trucks being dispatched every day, only 30% full ...”

“... this has been going on for over ten years and nothing has been done about it until several months ago ...

“... when I arrived we immediately engaged differently ...

“... at the kickoff meeting with a broad group of executives [from the USPS] ...

He also expressed approval for the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act, that was replaced in 2006 by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act:

“... I believe there was wisdom in that legislation [the PRA] albeit compromised by the PAEA and subsequent regulation ...

“... for the last ten years our stakeholders and the Postal Service’s management have not conformed to the intent of that law [the PRA] and as a consequence we transformed into an existence exactly like the 1970 law tried to prevent.  That’s how you lose $10 billion a year and develop the chronic condition that I found it in."

Speaking about his Plan, DeJoy said:

“... take the necessary actions no matter how uncomfortable the journey ...

“... create $44 billion over the next years in new revenue through the use of our market-dominant pricing authority ...

“... they [mailers] got a deal for the past ten years ...

“... against a great deal of pushback we are increasing our prices in accordance with our regulations which is necessary for our continued survival.  I believe we had a defective pricing model for almost sixteen years and its’ going to be several years before we can ease up especially in this inflationary environment ...

“... we have decreased our forecasted losses by almost $90 billion ...

“... we are not building a package network we are saving the mail network ...

“... 70% of cubic volume is packages and 30% is mail ...”

Toward the end of his prepared remarks, he’d outlined his vision for what the USPS should be in the future.  He mentioned how it would be operating with “precision” and providing service at prices he considered reasonable, and would be the “preferred” service provider – presumably for packages, as senders of hard-copy mail have little choice.

In unscripted comments in the Q&A period following his speech, DeJoy continued his dismissiveness toward any non-conforming perspective:

“... it’s a bunch of rhetoric ...

“... the people who are going to leave the Postal Service because of electronic communications will eventually leave the Postal Service ...

“... I don’t think anyone’s going to miss a day [of delivery speed] ...

Encapsulating his view of what preceded his arrival, DeJoy characterized it as “a lousy organizational strategy and a lousy operational strategy.”

Observations

DeJoy has been in office for 26 months, and it’s been a year and a half since he issued his Plan.  However, for some reason, he still feels the need to open any presentation about that Plan with a diatribe about the alleged incompetence of previous PMGs, the perceived venality of ratepayers and the mailing industry, and the diffidence of the Postal Regulatory Commission in its regulation of the ratesetting process.

DeJoy says he wants supporters yet, rather perversely, bitterly insults anyone who doesn’t universally agree.  He expects agreement without the mere civility of a conversation; doubters are just pushed aside as “irrelevant” and “noise.”

That shouldn’t be a surprise, given that his views of his predecessors and the mailing industry were formed early by his circle of advisors (see his comment about meeting with a “broad group of executives,” above).  Looking for some explanation for the “mess” in which he found the Postal Service, those advisors likely took the opportunity to shift the blame away from anything they did, instead vengefully throwing past PMGs and “stakeholders” under the bus.

Just the same, if DeJoy wants to sell his Plan – which isn’t as broadly opposed by “stakeholders and pundits” as he likes to make it sound – perhaps those who frame his public messages should urge him to stop poking nonbelievers in the eye and simply get on with making his Plan work.  Results would do much better at changing minds than snarky speeches.

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