Biggart’s Lament, or Getting Out of the Theory Cave

Biggart's Lament

Watch Nicole Woolsey Biggart’s video abstract:

Like many of you I came to the study of organizations because of experiences that intrigued me and about which I wanted to learn more. In my case I had improbably landed an internship job with the Postmaster General of the USA just as the postal service was trying to transition from being a cabinet-level and therefore highly politicized unit of the Executive Branch to an enterprise-like public corporation. Republican President Richard Nixon was trying to reduce political patronage and the cosy relationships between largely Democratic postal unions and Congress. Nixon also wanted to improve efficiency and run the mail system in a business-like way (modernizing government was a theme of his presidency). At that time the post office was huge – the largest non-military organization in the world with thousands of employees in nearly every community in the country. It owned more real estate than any other organization. It had fleets of trucks, bought vast petroleum supplies (as well massive amounts of products from paint to paper), and had large contracts to move mail with airlines, railroads, and trucking firms. It had millions of dollars of receipts coming in every day, an extraordinary cash flow the management of which was… unsophisticated. … [Read More]

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