An Organization To Learn
Sinking Of The Titanic
Rain, Sleet And New Quality Initiatives
To Deliver Excellence
Your Typical Oil Change
What A Concept
by Peter Block
On The Baldrige Winners
by Cathy Kramer
Business News Briefs
for a Change
J. T. Weeker, a leading member of the Northeast area Breakthrough
Performance Focus team, is now vice president area operations for the United
States Postal Service Great Lakes Area, which includes metropolitan Chicago.
He was recently interviewed by News for A Change.
NFC: Has the Breakthrough Performance Focus, started
in 1988, expanded since that time?
Weeker: Very much so. That effort which began in
our Albany District in 1988 and helped to motivate the Northeast's Breakthrough
Performance Focus has now spread into all 10 of the Postal Service
operation areas. In the process, methods have been enhanced and become more
NFC: The Northeast studies and methods involved quality-focused teamwork
from the top down. Has the area-wide focus been encouraged in the same
Weeker: Indeed it has. In addition to the vice presidents who oversee the
postal areas, we now have the strong support of Norman Lorentz, the area-wide
vice president for quality. There are also quality managers in each area.
NFC: How has the Breakthrough Performance Focus benefited the Great Lakes
area, particularly the metropolitan Chicago operations?
Weeker: Our area includes all of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. We
have approximately 80,000 employees, serve 25-million people and handle
17-billion pieces of mail annually. Because of its size, Chicago had been
having the most trouble with its postal operations. Chicago's main processing
plant was crowded and outmoded. The Postal Service officials decided to
split that activity into two new, state-of-the-art, completely separate
suburban plants. Obviously, that's not an easy task, especially when it
involves thousands of employees and the mail must continue to go through
during the switchover. But the teamwork in that metropolitan area was truly
amazing. Quality control and Delivery Point Sequencing were not sacrificed
and our success proved the importance of teamwork and leadership throughout
our entire organization.
NFC: Was that success duly recognized?
Weeker: It certainly was. Our Collect-2-Cancel team earned the national
Hammer Award for improvement of service. The award was presented by Vice
President Al Gore. In addition, that same Great Lakes team is now a finalist
in the Quality Improvement Competition sponsored by The Rochester Institute
of Technology and USA TODAY.
NFC: Has the quality improvement effort also been encouraged nationally?
Weeker: Very definitely. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon, chief operating
officer for the United States Postal System, comes from corporate experience
and rates quality and leadership very highly. He headed the Tennessee Valley
Authority and before that was CEO at Nissan. He had also headed operations
for the Ford Motor Company.
NFC: We know that quality is being emphasized as a positive goal in meeting
ever-increasing competition in the marketplace, but for years and years
the postal system was regarded as a somewhat "in the rut" monopoly.
In addition to the 1970 postal reorganization which established the United
States Postal Service as a separate entity, what other factors are involved
in the improvements?
Weeker: For one thing, increased pride in workmanship. In our case,
giving the very best service we can and ensuring same time delivery daily.
Nor is the Postal Service without competition. There are many other forms
of communication: telephone (we now have phone cards available), radio,
television, the Internet and E-mail. There are other delivery systems, not
just domestic but international as well. The familiar admonition to "keep
on your toes" in no way excludes the U.S. Postal System. We, too, have
to strive for excellence.