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Author: Ronald Williams Jr.
It certainly takes a great deal of moxy to publish a book criticizing your employer, and that is exactly what Ronald Williams Jr. has done with Deep Inside Liteblue.
Williams is a veteran federal employee of the United States Postal Service (USPS). As we are informed in the book’s Acknowledgements, the internal operations of the postal service on the extranet are called LiteBlue, a domain where the employees send, receive and access up-to-date information about the business.
The processing and distribution center of the post office (P&DC) is where we find all of the mail collected in the postal service being processed behind the scenes. Most of us never heard of this facility and we haven’t a clue as to how it operates. All we know is that we put a stamp on our envelopes and presto by some magical process our envelopes reach their destinations. We have no idea as to what goes on behind the close doors of the P&DC and probably we don’t really care as long as our letter has reached its intended destination. However, as Williams points out, we should care because it is all about people’s misfortunes behind the scenes that have an impact in preventing the postal service from being competitive and to continue delivering the mail in a way that people have been accustomed.
The opening chapter of the book introduces us to a United States Postal Service plant or as it is also known as a Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC).
This plant operates twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. It has a workroom that is three times the size of a Wal-Mart and a loading dock with sixty plus garage doors. Approximately two thousand employees work in this plant and they come from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures. There are Africans, Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Laotians, Europeans, Asian Pacific Islanders, Caribbeans, Indians, Hispanics and many others.
Moreover, their backgrounds are as diverse as their numbers such as artists, cooks, military retirees, aviation specialists, writers, etc. As Williams points out, imagine if we could tap into that talent and combined years of experience and incorporate it into “moving the mail.” After all the most precious treasure of any company, be it private or public, is its people. However, such is not the case as there exists a malaise in the system wherein this people capital is ignored. What is worrisome is that the US postal service has become uncompetitive and private companies are emerging from scratch and may some day be the cause of the death of the service.
Most of the book focuses on Williams’ perspective from his life of a junior mail handler as he points out and explores the many shortcomings of the system that should be rectified in order to maintain a future for the US postal service.
We are told about supervisors who although physically show up for work, seem to avoid actually doing the work they have been assigned. This may be the result of their lack of up-to-date skills such as computer literacy or perhaps just plain laziness.
This is particularly in evidence where they are about to retire and their attitude seems to be why make waves, I will soon be out of here. Consequently, they no longer act as mentors or leaders but rather as baby sitters who at times are quite intimidating. There is also a tendency to turn a deaf ear when employees are making legitimate claims pertaining to their working conditions and the equipment that is sometimes obsolete or in poor working condition. Another problem is the break down in communications between supervisors and the employees.
On the other hand, it is not uncommon to hear a manager telling a supervisor that he is too friendly with the employees. As Williams states, “managers are forgetting about four universal social gifts inside all of us. We all need to feel appreciated and connected, have our spirits elevated and we want to be enlightened.”
Summing the most prevalent shortcomings of managers, Williams lists the following: they don’t talk to people, playing the role of beat cops thus making employees feel busted rather than trusted, forgetting that if they take care of their employees, the employees will effectively take care of the mail, ignoring of the presence of an employee. In other words, the managers forget where they came from which in most instances was from the ranks of craft workers on the floor.
Other gripes that Williams exposes is the downplaying or ignoring of the Quality of Working Life program that was enacted to improve the quality of working life for all employees, the cozy relationship between the union and management, problems with overtime, shortage of proper machinery, sick leave abuse, ignoring work related injuries, safety, and employee reluctance to step forward and be heard.
Williams concludes that he is not trying to be the next postal American idol however he emphatically states that there is a need to get rid of the anchors that are weighing down the postal service. There is a need to build new motors that can take the service somewhere positive and plan for the future. And as he succinctly sums up, “the mark of a successful company is not having the same problems year after year.”
The passionate depiction of the shortcomings of the US postal service is well done and Williams raises as many questions as he answers, but this, he hopes, will spur postal employees as well as perhaps others to rock the boat a little in order to save the service from extinction. As we often hear, change is constant and adaptability king. If all that Williams relates is valid, then we have to conclude that the postal service executives are not learning how to recognize and react to the market forces that are affecting the enterprise. This could in turn lead to its demise and then what happens-will it become private? What would be the ramifications?
The above review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Norm is a Retired Title Attorney and now is the Editor & Publisher of Bookpleasures. Here are Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Interview with Ronald Williams Jr. CLICK HERE
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