Leading The 200-Year-Old Postal Service In The 21st Century

By Christie Chua|28-12-2018 | 1 Min Read

Do you remember the times when you would wait impatiently at home, looking forward to receive a letter from a loved one but not knowing when it would arrive?

Many people still rely on the postal service to deliver their letters, documents and parcels, and chances are, most of us are just as impatient to receive our mail as we were back then.

It is natural for us to expect accurate and speedy deliveries as customers, and Pos Malaysia Bhd’s recently-appointed group chief executive officer Syed Md Najib Syed Md Noor says that earning the trust of the customer is crucial in this industry.

“People trust us with sending goods, and value is relative. A parcel may seem small to some, but when we say that we will deliver it within a certain number of days and in good condition, we need to deliver on this. This is where the brand promise comes in. It’s what building trust is all about.”

Pos Malaysia has a huge advantage when it comes to this, as it has the widest reach and the biggest parcel processing centre in the country. The organisation has 3,800 touch points, the capacity to sort 300,000 to 500,000 parcels a day, and a workforce of around 16,000 employees who are directly related to the mail and parcel business.


Syed Najib with a vintage Pos Malaysia bicycle. These bicycles were used by postmen on their postal delivery routes back in the day, until they made the switch to motorcycles in the 1960s.

Zooming in on success

Syed Najib believes in having a selective focus in order for the organisation to meet its goals. “You cannot and should not be doing 25 things. You should be prioritising and doing the three to five things that’s going to give you the real impact, and that’s all.”

He says that traditional postal organisations like Pos Malaysia have to be realistic in terms of what they can achieve effectively because there are obligations to the rakyat and country.

Consumer needs have evolved to become more sophisticated in the realm of high-speed connectivity, and the need for the organisation to be reliable and visible is especially important to ensure that the customer experience will be smooth and effortless.

Syed Najib adds that they also have to be careful about following trends, as it’s always easy to jump on the bandwagon and attempt numerous initiatives that could lead to the organisation losing focus.

He says: “We first need to evaluate what we have. Most times, the strategy does not need to be changed, only tweaked. Focusing on a few areas will help you gain your employees’ confidence and trust. Set the mission, match and get the right skills, and articulate it well down the line to execute it.”

“When you try to do multiple things and rely on the same resources that are running traditional operations which are not perfect, it will overburden employees.”

For Syed Najib, his duty is first to go down to the operations level and identify where the potential upsides are, such as optimising parcel processing and transportation to release more capacity and improve deliveries, potential automation at the touch points to enable self-service by customers, and standardisation of processes. “Simple things like that can make a huge difference,” he says.

Another one of his first tasks in Pos Malaysia is to groom new talents so that the organisation will have a pool of talent for the senior management level in the years to come.

Change is constant. Nobody can promise that they will be here for the next five years – you have to live like there’s no tomorrow, otherwise there will always be another day and nothing will get done.

“We need to put the structure and processes in place so that we are able to cope better with the changing and demanding environment.”

With this in mind, Syed Najib has already begun building the core team, expanding the talent pool and formulating a succession plan, although he is only about three months into the role.

Fitting the puzzle pieces

One of the key characteristics that he looks for in a potential employee is passion, and he likes to spend time understanding them. “As leaders, our job is to try to understand what makes our employees tick,” he says.

“This is especially important when deciding if the person will work well in our team. We typically will have several sessions to get to know their leadership style and whether they jive with my senior management, before we decide on a key position.”

Syed Najib says that it is not enough for a senior management employee to be a ‘superhero’ if he or she can’t work well with the team and the group dynamics are not healthy. As everyone has their own strengths, recognising this early helps to speed up the tasks at hand and get everyone in the organisation to buy into the vision and mission.

So how does Syed Najib navigate the delicate balance of taking control and letting go during periods of transformation in an organisation?

“Once the direction has been set and the team created, you must have a timeline of what you want to achieve and properly track all the projects so that you don’t lose traction,” he says.

“Articulate well and you will get very engaged employees. That’s why I don’t think it’s practical to do too many things, because we need to engage and communicate effectively with the employees, and be practical in terms of what can be delivered. Otherwise, the employees will lose focus and patience, and eventually lose trust. ”

“My job is to see the customer’s point of view. Pos must become customer-centric, and there’s a huge opportunity to serve them better by focusing our efforts. The Pos employees, in turn, need to be equipped to deliver the promises to the customers, and at the core of operations, we need to innovate quickly to deliver and future-proof ourselves with techniques.”

“Pos is a sleeping dragon; all the elements are already there, but it will take at least two to three years to see a very different, and agile organisation to emerge,” says Syed Najib.

Pos Malaysia Bhd’s history dates back to the early 1800s, when postal services were first introduced to the Straits Settlements of Penang, Melaka and Singapore. For more information on Pos Malaysia and its services, visit pos.com.my.

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Christie was previously the deputy editor at Leaderonomics. She prefers to convey her thoughts through the written word and is a stickler for consistency. One of her favourite phrases is “It’s not that far; we can walk there!”
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