I am not one of those who likes to rail against the United States Postal Service. We have always had excellent, friendly service from our local post office, and almost all of our mail carriers have been people who care about their customers and serve above-and-beyond. Overall I think the system works well.
Further up the chain of command, however, I sometimes have my doubts. The following notice came from our bank this morning:
Effective October 1, 2021, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has revised its service standards for certain First-Class Mail items, resulting in a delivery window of up to five days. Please note that this may delay your receipt of mail from us and our receipt of mail from you (including mailed payments). Please take this change into account when mailing items to us via USPS.
Here's an explanation from the USPS website:
After carefully considering the Postal Regulatory Commission’s (PRC) July 20th advisory opinion, the Postal Service plans to move forward with adjusting service standards for First-Class Mail and Periodicals. The PRC concluded that the Postal Service’s proposed changes, in principle, are rational and accord with statutory requirements. The PRC made a number of recommendations for how the Postal Service should implement its changes, which the Postal Service is largely adopting. Additional details will be provided in an upcoming Federal Register notice. A majority of First-Class Mail and Periodicals will keep current service standards, with 70 percent of First-Class Mail volume having a delivery standard of 1-3 days.
The service standard changes are part of our balanced and comprehensive Delivering for America Strategic Plan, and will improve service reliability and predictability for customers and enhance the efficiency of the Postal Service network. The service standard changes that we have determined to implement are a necessary step towards achieving our goal of consistently meeting 95 percent service performance.
So, practically, mail service may seem the same for much of the time. But read that last line again: The service standard changes that we have determined to implement are a necessary step towards achieving our goal of consistently meeting 95 percent service performance.
I should not be surprised. Over several decades, I've seen it happen in our educational system, in business practices, in government services, and in social expectations. We talk a good game, but when it comes to actual accomplishment, time and time again I've seen organizations choose to meet their goals by bringing the goals down to their level of achievement, rather than the other way around.
Maybe the new standards are more realistic. Maybe there are a thousand excuses for not achieving what we set out to do. Certainly I've had to revise my personal goals too often. But if the purpose of the new goals isn't to help us move beyond them—further, better, higher—we can trap ourselves on a downward spiral of lowered expectations.