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Incidental activities

Nice to have, but not necessary. Author

There are many activities that although not strictly necessary for accomplishing the line-of-business activities or for supporting or managing them, are nevertheless still appropriate and lend a richness to the organization and may even contribute to a more profitable operation.

Providing guided tours of a factory,  running a coffee shop in a hospital, organizing the Christmas party for employees' children and activities concerned with local organizations or charities.

The tail wagging the dog':  Incidental activities can get out of hand. An example of this was the case of an internationally renowned centre for horticulture, in beautiful countryside near London, which opened a restaurant for visitors. This provided a congenial rest for refreshment between looking at the plants in the gardens. The refreshments were so good that people were visiting the restaurant with a look at the gardens as an after-thought. Unfortunately, management decided that the restaurant had to operate on a 'business basis' and make a profit. Soon, prices were increased sharply and those delicious home-made cakes were replaced by mass-produced bought-in ones with the result that the restaurant's reputation suffered and not only did it receive less patronage, but the number of people visiting the gardens decreased as well. In other cases, what starts out as incidental activities can form a major source of income and can then impinge on the line-of-business ones, for example, airport authorities promoting the excessive use of shopping centres at their airports taking away space from seating areas.

Making a better environment:
  In the majority of cases incidental activities often make the organization seem a nicer place for staff and customers. However, they usually don't have much effect on efficiency and for this reason are often the first activities to be stopped during cutbacks. They should be evaluated to make sure that they give some benefit to someone. This will probably not be a financial benefit, but could be a positive effect on morale or public relations. If they are done, it must be remembered that incidental activities can form a 'shop window' for the organization as with guided tours or coffee shops. Thus anything done which impacts potential customers should therefore be carried out in a professional manner.  >>>