Pushing Forward, No Matter What

Clearly Louis DeJoy did his reading – reports by the Office of Inspector General, GAO studies, and such – and probably Envisioning America’s Future Postal Service, the 10-year plan developed by the Boston Consulting Group and released by then-PMG Jack Potter in March 2010.  All of that, plus what he’d been told by his circle of selected advisors and his own strong opinions, likely influenced what eventually emerged in his own 10-year Plan, also released in March (2021).

However, unlike Jack Potter or, for that matter, any of the PMGs who’ve led the USPS over the past two decades, Louis DeJoy has no real, first-hand knowledge of the Postal Service or the businesses of its customers.  Holed-up in his office at L’Enfant Plaza, he’s spent scarcely any time learning about the mailing business or the connected industries that take messages from concept to recipients’ mailboxes.

He seems to have the answers already; as anyone who’s met him can attest, a typical conversation is him talking about his Plan or what he thinks rather than listening to what others may have to say.  And if what others do say doesn’t agree with what he thinks, he doesn’t want to hear it, and says so.  For example, when the major industry associations, representing the breadth of commercial mailers and ratepayers, sent him a letter critical of his Plan, he reacted with an angry defensive outburst that left many who read it in disbelief.

Undeterred, he’s pressed forward with implementing his Plan, reorganizing the field management structure, pushing degradations in service standards, and now seeking price increases that are both questionably necessary and situationally counterintuitive.  If there are any executives left in the USPS who don’t agree with his Plan or its implementation, either they’ve been sidelined or are smart enough to keep quiet.  In what’s become a cultish environment, DeJoy and his Plan are what will be supported, period.

Now, by filing a rate increase that about equals the past five years’ increases combined, and doing so when mail is just 

starting to rebound, when ratepayers still remember last winter’s dismal service (that has yet to recover), and when he’s trying to convince customers that slower service is what they really need, DeJoy is displaying a singularly arrogant stubbornness to do what he wants no matter what.

Despite the clear message from ratepayers that now is not the time for a price increase, DeJoy’s obsessive prosecution of his Plan shows an unprecedented tone-deafness, lack of situational awareness, and disregard for customers.  Worse, just as Congress may relieve the onerous prefunding obligation, he’s imposed a price increase to start funding those payments.  All this from a person whose postal experience is barely longer than that of a seasonal casual.

Of course, DeJoy can’t seek a price change on his own; that action is reserved to the Postal Service’s Governors.  However, except for the governors just seated, those who supported the filing are the same people who selected him for PMG, and so are unlikely to challenge his recommendation to raise prices, let alone express doubts about his Plan.

Moreover, most of the governors themselves have the same paucity of knowledge about the USPS, its customers, and those customers’ businesses as the PMG does, leaving them unequipped – or unwilling – to question his lead.  Claiming in the press release that he and the Board are “judiciously implementing a rational pricing approach” only highlights their detachment from the real environment in which postal ratepayers exist.  DeJoy and his Board allies may be luminaries in big business but that doesn’t endow them with the knowledge or judgment to run the USPS.

History has many examples of leaders who, out of their depth, pursue courses of action in areas where they lack expertise, listening to what they want to hear from advisors, and ignoring anything not aligned with their thinking.  Often those leaders’ enterprises came to no good end as a result; sadly, DeJoy’s Postal Service may be the next.
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