Chief Operating Officer David Williams, who was named to the post in February, recently sat down with Link to discuss his career path and thoughts on the future.
Let’s start with your new job. How do you describe it?
The COO’s role begins and ends with service. It’s all about providing great customer service, whether it’s through the retail experience, mail induction, processing, maintenance, transportation, delivery. … That’s true of the entire Postal Service. Everything starts and ends with service. It’s in our name.
Operations is the Postal Service’s biggest component.
It’s about 488,000 career employees and 31,000 facilities. It includes a fleet of about 200,000 vehicles. Bringing all those pieces together and doing it efficiently on the customer’s behalf is what it’s all about.
Is being COO something you always strived for?
No. I always wanted to have my manager’s job — whatever that was at the time. When I started out, my goal was to be director of city operations, but that job was abolished.
That’s a good segue. Talk about your career path. When did you join the Postal Service?
Nearly 28 years ago. My first day was June 6, 1987.
And what brought you here?
I grew up in Miami. When I was an industrial engineering student at the University of Florida, my senior project was on improving letter-sorting equipment capacity. That was my introduction [to the Postal Service]. After graduation, I became an industrial engineering professional/specialist trainee at headquarters, and then I took on assignments in Oklahoma, Miami and Orlando before returning to headquarters as a management intern.
What was that like?
It was a four-year program. I worked in Finance, HR, Labor Relations, Marketing, Operations. It exposed me to a lot of different areas.
That must have opened a lot of doors.
Well, after I outplaced, I can remember asking my manager for opportunities to become a plant manager. I must have been 26 years old. He told me, “Be patient, be patient.”
You eventually got that opportunity, though.
I’ve been given a lot of great opportunities. The Postmaster General talks about this a lot — investing in people, investing in the future. I’m an example of that. I wouldn’t be where I am today if the Postal Service hadn’t invested in me.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned?
First, understand the process — no matter what job you’re in. You have to know how things are supposed to work before you can improve them. Second, use data in your decision making. It can help you make improvements and validate your actions.
That’s increasingly important, isn’t it?
It’s been very powerful to me in understanding where the opportunities are for improvement in our organization.
And you see a lot of opportunities?
Absolutely. I’m driven by making a difference — and we are making a difference. We’re positioning this organization for the future. Being a part of that change is exciting.
So what’s the future of the Postal Service look like?
It looks very bright. We’re innovating faster than ever before. We’re responding to market changes like the increase in package volumes. We’re resizing our operational footprint and making investments in the future.
And making investments in people too, right?
Right. Our employees make it all happen — every one of them has an important role. We wouldn’t be here without them.
Operations at home
How does COO David Williams’ family feel about his new position?
During a recent visit to USPS headquarters, son Brandon, 16, told Link, “My father works hard. He’s taught us that by working hard you can get what you want. You can be successful. He leaves early and comes home late but always has time for his kids — he’s always at my games. I couldn’t tell you a time when he wasn’t there. He always has time for his family.”