Times are tough for the U.S. Postal Service, and there’s much concern among Americans over the fate of the US Postal Service, and how to fix what’s broken.
When we look at the USPS, we need to look at it in a larger context.
The USPS began moving mail from sender to recipient in 1775. In that larger context, the USPS was in the communication business.
Roughly 100 years later, the telephone was invented, and gradually provided an alternate means of communication.
About 100 years after the invention of the telephone, email was invented, and provided yet another major means of communication.
Around that same time, Federal Express (now FedEx) was founded as an express courier, who promised to deliver your mail a lot faster that the USPS.
As people and businesses began using these other forms of communication, there were far fewer pieces of mail that needed to be delivered, so the USPS began to see a steady decline in revenue.
But the USPS still considered itself to be in the mail delivery business, even though its customers were communicating began communicating through different channels.
If the USPS saw itself as being in the communication business instead of the mail delivery business, it might have evolved into a very different enterprise than what it is today.
To understand this "myopic mission" of the USPS, it helps to think of the railroads:
Before the Interstate Highway system was built in the 1950’s, people more frequently travelled by railroad. Back then, railroads were a much bigger industry; many more towns had a train station, and daily train service.
Transportation occurred largely by rail. But the big railroad companies didn't consider themselves to be in the transportation business; they considered themselves to be in the "railroad business."
When alternate modes of transportation were developed (highways & affordable air travel), fewer people chose to travel by trains, and eventually, passenger train service all but disappeared.
The Railroad industry failed to evolve and adapt to newer modes of transportation. Hence, it downscaled dramatically.
Similarly, the USPS has failed to evolve and adapt to newer modes of communication. Hence, it is now downscaling dramatically, by closing many of its brick-and-mortar branches.
So, how do we solve the problem?
We solve the problem by eliminating the USPS' non-profitable services, and focus more on those services that the USPS does well.
What else do we do to save the USPS?
We cut back on daily mail delivery, and go to every-other-day, or we outsource USPS mail delivery to another company that already has a fleet of delivery vehicles on the same roads (and in the process, reduce the carbon footprint!)
And we re-define the business in a way that aligns with 21st century communications.
And when the sun sets, if the USPS has gone out of business, its customers and the private sector will adapt, as they always have, with more effective and more efficient solutions.
The message here for any business that ever feared facing extinction is this: Define your business according to the problem that you solve, and not the product or service that you deliver. And once you’ve done that, never stop thinking of new ways to solve that problem.
So ask yourself: What business are you really in?