ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

March 1998


Teaching An Organization To Learn

Scenario Planning

The Sinking Of The Titanic

Through Rain, Sleet And New Quality Initiatives

Striving To Deliver Excellence

Not Your Typical Oil Change


Reality: What A Concept
by Peter Block

Reflections On The Baldrige Winners
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Striving To
Deliver Excellence

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?
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 sophisticated.
NFC: The Northeast studies and methods involved quality-focused teamwork from the top down. Has the area-wide focus been encouraged in the same manner?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.

March '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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