• on Apr 13th, 2015 in OIG | 4 comments

    If you’ve rummaged around our website lately, you may have noticed a new tab on our home page entitled Audit Asks. “What is Audit Asks?” you might ask. It’s where you can read about some of our upcoming audits in their early stages and respond to questions that can help us develop more complete and useful audit reports.

    Audit Asks is actually an update of our audit project pages, initially launched about 6 years ago to get feedback from our readers. With the new Audit Asks format, we have added some eye-catching graphics and changed our writing style to prompt more feedback.

    Engaging stakeholders is important to us, as this blog attests. Your comments provide valuable insights and can help guide the direction of our audits, as well as our findings. This is also your opportunity to send links to documents you think will be useful during the audit planning phase. During this phase the audit team learns about the subject, collects a broad range of data, contacts key experts and stakeholders, and develops the specific objectives of the audit. This is when we decide on the breadth and depth of the topic of the report.

    Right now, for example, you can let us know about your experience with reduced window hours at select post offices and whether you think this will generate the intended savings. Or you can tell us what you think about voting by mail or your views on the new mobile delivery devices used to track packages and communicate with local post offices.

    Are you following us on Twitter and Facebook? It’s a great way to be informed when the audit announcements are posted in Audit Asks.

    And while we’re asking, are there specific issues you believe merit a U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General audit? We conduct objective, independent audits of Postal Service programs and operations to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and misconduct, and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. If you have an idea for an audit along any of these lines, we would love to hear from you. 

  • on Apr 3rd, 2015 in Strategy & Public Policy | 0 comments

    In the sage words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you will wind up somewhere else.” So, where does the U.S. Postal Service want to go? Well, by 2016 it hopes to end up a lot closer to solvency. And to get there, it developed the Delivering Results, Innovation, Value and Efficiency (DRIVE) management process.

    DRIVE is a portfolio of strategic initiatives the Postal Service is implementing to meet ambitious performance goals and close its $20 billion financial gap. Each initiative is made of specific projects, goals, and milestones all leading toward a broad, overarching goal. The Postal Service began its DRIVE initiatives in 2011.

    So, how are the DRIVE initiatives working out? Well, the 19 initiatives are in various stages of development, funding, and implementation, and the Postal Service has about $2 billion in available capital to support all of them. The Postal Service said it generated $4.9 billion in new sales opportunities and cut $868 million in costs through DRIVE. It also reported that it has revitalized its Priority Mail package service and reduced its facilities footprint by more than 3 million feet.

    We’ve been keeping an eye on this process and have completed three DRIVE audits. Our reports looked at overall management of DRIVE (DP-AR-13-008), Initiative 6 (DP-AR-14-001), which aims to improve employee availability, and Initiative 42 (DP-AR-14-005), which focused on marketing new and existing services.

    Our first audit found DRIVE program management compares favorably to best-in-class program management practices – but there are opportunities for improvement. The other two reports reviewed specific initiatives and urged improvements, such as setting more aggressive goals, promoting accountability, and accurately measuring achievement. For example, one of the goals of Initiative 42 was to increase shipping and mail revenue by $5.2 billion in fiscal year 2014. As of May 2014, the Postal Service reported reaching $3.4 billion of that goal; however, we found the Postal Service does not have the capability to measure goals against recorded sales. A separate DRIVE initiative is intended to improve this ability to accurately measure goals.

    We are looking at other DRIVE initiatives, as well. But we would like to hear your thoughts on the value of this management tool.

    Do you believe the initiatives discussed here are improving the Postal Service?

    What DRIVE initiatives would you like to see the Postal Service pursue?

    Do you think these initiatives are the best way for the Postal Service to reach solvency? If not, what should it do instead? 

  • on Mar 30th, 2015 in Strategy & Public Policy | 1 comment

    The conventional wisdom on the future of print, if print has a future at all, is that old-fashioned books, magazines, and newspapers will still be around only as long as the generations that grew up with them are still around. But as older readers fade away, so will print because younger generations are all about digital communications. Or are they?

    Consider some interesting recent developments and facts:

    • The Pew Research Center found the current highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.
    • A new academic study showed that, despite the availability of free e-texts, today’s university students prefer dead-tree-based books because they don’t constantly distract you with a noisy alert to a new email or text message.
    • Focus groups of Digital Natives, a.k.a. Millennials, convened by our office showed the participants still value physical mail, especially if it includes some kind of interactive feature.

    Put all of this in the context of some recent European studies on the impact of digitization on reading, and maybe print isn’t going away anytime soon: People retain more details when reading a book than reading an e-book. Researchers said the early results suggest the tactile nature of paper and having words affixed to a page seem to help the reader process the text and better remember the story.

    A small Norwegian study of high school students came to a similar conclusion, having found that students who read textbooks in print scored significantly better on reading comprehension tests than those students who read digital texts.

    So maybe younger readers aren’t so different from older readers. It wouldn’t be the first time conventional wisdom was wrong. In fact, some of the same arguments are made about mail and other paper-based communications. Yet a study done by the UK’s Royal Mail showed physical media generated greater activity in certain parts of the brain and a stronger overall response than digital media. The study supported the concept that touch and tangibility matter to recipients.

    What things do you still like to read in print? Which do you prefer to read digitally? Are there other things you still prefer having in hard copy? Do you find you retain information better when reading from hard copy or a digital device? 

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