You've got mail! The famous AOL e-mail alert seemed at one point to sound the death knell of snail mail. Contrast the immediacy of electronic bytes with the real-world delays of paper mail, and the advantages of the former seemed to negate the necessity of the latter. Fast forward a couple of decades, however, and while most people no longer rely on mailed missives, package deliveries have become big business thanks to the rise of online shopping. As a result, postal services are in greater demand than ever. Witness the recent uproar over cases of mail going astray. A postman was arrested after mail was found discarded. Postal service provider SingPost was also fined $100,000 for a series of lapses over six months in 2017. A story in this newspaper highlighted the heavy load, literally, that postmen carry each day. SingPost's 1,000-strong fleet have to deliver three million pieces of mail every day, which works out to 3,000 pieces for every postman.
This seeming boon to the postal service business has turned into a bane. The lapses suggest that the service provider may not have been nimble enough to respond to industry disruption. Despite having first-mover advantage in the delivery service arena, it now has to play catch-up, with promises to hire more postmen and to review infrastructure and processes. SingPost's experience is instructive for leaders in any industry facing disruption. First-mover advantage is no guarantee of long-term success if core competencies get eroded. Another lesson is that investment in sufficient and well-trained human resources is important if a company is to deliver on its plans.