By Aaron S. Robertson
The following is a paper submitted by the author on November 30, 2011 for a class assignment. The author is currently pursuing a master of science in management degree from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.
On Sunday, November 20, 2011, this student, along with his fellow classmates, volunteered nearly five hours of his time at the Holiday Folk Fair, held at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis, Wisconsin. It was the last day of the annual festival.
In the following paper, this student will offer a brief background of the Holiday Folk Fair; discuss the volunteer duties he performed; and relate those responsibilities and experiences to the world of business.
Background on the Holiday Folk Fair
The Holiday Folk Fair benefits the International Institute of Wisconsin (IIW). Founded in 1936 the IIW is, “…dedicated to the promotion of international cooperation, understanding, and a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural perspective through education, exchange, communication, social activities, and immigration and naturalization services” (T. Henderson, personal communication, November 28, 2011).
The Holiday Folk Fair itself is an annual three-day event held on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair Park. Having operated for over 65 years now, the event celebrates the richness of diversity and culture. It accomplishes this by highlighting the traditions of more than 30 different ethnic groups (T. Henderson, personal communication, November 28, 2011). An extensive variety of foods, music, art, history, traditional dress, dance, and other entertainment form the essence of the Holiday Folk Fair.
Volunteer Responsibilities Undertaken
This student, along with his classmates, volunteered in a sales role, taking orders from customers for such items as coffee, soda, water, candy, and ice cream at a booth. Having experienced all aspects of the sales process from cash handling and making change to product preparation and delivery, a division of labor did not exist. Rather, there was a breakdown of barriers between functions, which allowed this student and his fellow classmates to serve customers at a faster rate and better identify potential issues because of these high levels of cooperation and communication, a hallmark of total quality management (Jones & George, 2011, p. 293).
Correlation Between This Service Project and Business
There are a number of concepts and experiences realized during this service project that correlate to the world of business.
One of the more obvious business experiences realized was customer service. The vast majority of time was spent greeting customers, taking their orders, and delivering to them the products they requested. At times, it became necessary to make small talk and establish rapport with some customers, as they found themselves not immediately sure of what they wanted to order.
But there were other experiences and concepts encountered along the way that may not appear so obvious to those not studying business or management, or running a business of their own.
For example, this student encountered a manager or supervisor of some sort that arguably fit the characteristics of a Theory X practitioner.
This man did not go out of his way to get to know or make conversation with the volunteers, nor even the booth’s paid employees, for that matter. Much of his time was spent standing in the same spot, arms folded, closely observing those working. He appeared not to speak unless, and until, someone made an error, whether real or perceived, and his voice was stern. One example of this would have been if someone poured coffee for a customer from one of multiple coffee pots available that disregarded a prearranged order he had set in his mind. While this student understands the concept of going through older coffee before using coffee that was more recently brewed, the booth was arguably selling coffee at such a fast pace that it rendered this strict interpretation of product rotation moot.
Judging by his demeanor, posture, and unwillingness to establish a rapport with, and work alongside, the others in the booth, this man adheres to a Theory X management philosophy. Conceptualized by Dr. Douglas McGregor (1906-64), Theory X alleges that the average employee is lazy, always seeks to avoid responsibility, and dislikes work. With these assumptions in mind, Theory X managers constantly, and closely, supervise employees (Jones & George, 2011, pp. 58-59).
This man’s management philosophy differs from what is known as Theory Y, which sees employees as anything but lazy. According to Theory Y, employees do not inherently dislike their work; they seek to take on responsibility; and, if afforded the opportunity to do so, they will work for the good of the organization (Jones & George, 2011, pp. 58-59).
The concept of just-in-time Inventory was practiced. As Jones & George (2011) discuss, just-in-time inventory helps boost efficiency while simultaneously driving down costs because “…parts or supplies arrive at the organization when they are needed, not before” (p. 292).
Putting this into better perspective, a paid employee at the booth was monitoring the available inventory at regular intervals, leaving the booth occasionally to retrieve more product from another location. This ensured that inventory was always being turned over and not overstocked. If product were overstocked and did not sell, the booth’s paid employees would have more clean-up and dismantling duties at the end of the day, which also happened to be the final day of the fair. This would have led to having to pay for more time on the clock for tasks that could have been easily prevented.
Finally, the simple fact that this student and his classmates were required to perform this service project together helps these students realize another “must” in business: that employees, whether they are in a supervisory role or not, must negotiate, arrive at consensus, work together, and at times sacrifice their personal schedules for the sake of a greater cause – the organization they serve. These students spent a considerable amount of time combing personal schedules and negotiating with each other to make this particular date, time, and location possible for fulfilling this assigned project.
In the preceding paper, this student discussed his time volunteering in a sales role at the Holiday Folk Fair. A brief background on the history of the Holiday Folk Fair and what its proceeds benefit was given, and correlations between this volunteer experience and the business world were established.
Jones, Gareth R., & George, Jennifer M. (2011). Contemporary management (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.