Postmaster General Abruptly Announces Retirement

Postmaster General Jack Potter, after serving nine years in that role, announced his retirement today, effective next month.  Patrick Donahoe, current Deputy Postmaster General, will take over as the new PMG.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Patrick Donahoe several times.  While I found him genuine and approachable, I do not envy his newfound responsibility.  He is taking control of a ship in the midst of a massive storm.

During his tenure, PMG Jack Potter has seen highs and lows.  US mail volume hit its all-time high in 2006, processing 212 billion mailpieces, only to see a steep decline three years later to 177 billion units; 2010 is forecasted for 150 billion units.

There is no shortage of excuses for the rapid decline.  The Great Recession coupled with the rapid shift to electronic communications certainly top the list.  Combine mail volume decline with the congressional requirements for healthcare pre-funding, and it is no wonder that the USPS lost about $6 billion for its 2010 fiscal year.

The USPS needs to make significant changes to correct its rapidly declining business.  The Washington Post’s profile of Donahoe leads one to question whether we will in fact see that change:

“Donahoe’s career path mirrored Potter’s for much of the last three decades. They both rose through the ranks from entry-level positions to mid-level managers to occupants of the best offices at the Postal Service’s L’Enfant Plaza headquarters. They graduated from the same management training program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology… And much like Potter, Donahoe eagerly wants Congress to back off and let postal executives manage USPS in a more nimble way.”

Time will tell if Mr. Donahoe can bring about the level of change needed to correct the USPS path.  To paraphrase one high-level executive closely associated with the U.S. Post Office, this organization is the only one he can think of that has three products and 10,000 prices.

Donahoe, along with his 700,000 employees, have a formidable job ahead of them.

-Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

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