Electronic waste is ‘a karmic nightmare,’ says Rosemary Roberts in ‘What would the Buddha Recycle?’ (www.vivagroupindia.com). “E-waste includes cell phones, computers, televisions, VCRs, copiers, and fax machines – anything with a battery or a plug. While some of this equipment can be recycled or donated to a charity, much of it is obsolete or broken,” she explains.

Frighteningly, more than 3,000 tonnes of electronic equipment are discarded every day, and there is enough lead and mercury in this e-waste to be hazardous for the planet! And, sadly, our legal framework may not be adequate, yet, to grapple with the enormity of the problem.

An example that Roberts cites is of a US legislation regarding CRTs (cathode ray tubes) from computer and television monitors, one of the components of the e-waste. Another example is of a Californian statute that assesses an advance recovery fee when electronics are purchased. “The amount of fee varies from $6 to $10, and goes into an account that’s used to pay collectors and recyclers.”

The author cautions developing countries, such as India and China, about the portions of US e-waste that are shipped for recycling. She foresees that, as the emerging economies become overburdened by waste and citizens rally for stronger environmental laws, the export of e-waste from the US will get limited.

A more malicious problem, according to her, is the shipping of e-waste to developing countries under the guise of technological donations. “As much as 75 per cent of the ‘donated’ products do not work, according to a speech by the executive director of the UN Environment Programme. The defunct products end up in landfills, where dangerous pollutants leak out and contaminate the soil and water.”

To achieve ‘the Zen of green living,’ the book calls for recycling of even those items that take up relatively small portions of the waste stream. “Single-use and rechargeable batteries are accepted by some radio electronics and office stores… Send old printer cartridges back to the manufacturer; Hewlett-Packard provides a self-addressed pouch with its new cartridges.”

Imperative read, to help you ‘transform your eco-footprint.’

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Three types of communication with project sponsor

The success or failure of a project is directly proportional to the amount of time spent communicating to your sponsor and team as well as the quality of those communications, observe Linda Kretz Zaval and Terri Wagner in ‘Project Manager Street Smarts: A real world guide to PMP skills’ (www.wileyindia.com).

The ‘project sponsor,’ who comes right after the ‘clients,’ in the list of stakeholders, participates in the sales efforts and contract negotiations, establishes and maintains top-level client relationships, assists the project manager in launching the project, interprets company policies, cuts through the red tape, and participates in the project steering committee to assist in setting project priorities.

The authors advise project managers to have three types of communication with the sponsor, ‘other than friendly chatter.’ These are incident, informal, and formal. “The first type, ‘incident communications,’ occurs if there is a complaint from a client or a problem that needs solving with the sponsor’s assistance. Base your need to communicate with your sponsor on the urgency of the incident or unfavourable visibility of your organisation.”

Rather than handing over a problem to the sponsor (which can lead to a loss of confidence in the project manager’s ability to handle the situation), it is essential to communicate an objective assessment of the situation, including a recommended approach for dealing with the problem, the authors recommend. “The sponsor may decide to handle the situation, perhaps because of politics or rank issues, but you will not be viewed in a negative way.” A few practical tips, in instances that need sponsor support, are that you can share the written document with the sponsor before sending it out, or ‘just copy the sponsor as an FYI or heads-up.’

The second type, the informal communications, is about meeting with the sponsor on a regular basis to informally discuss different aspects about the project such as overall state of the project, progress, performance, and successes. Seek regular feedback to determine whether your sponsor is happy, the authors urge.

“If the sponsor is not happy, react quickly and discuss expectations once again. Keep the sponsor in the loop… The main rule is: Never let the sponsor find out from someone else something that you should have communicated earlier!”

The third type, the formal one, is typically through reports. Examples mentioned in the book include summary of accomplishments, cost and schedule information, review of change orders, and identification of opportunities and threats related to actions requested by the sponsor. “Remove technical issues too detailed for a sponsor. Sponsors do not want to be mired in the minutiae.”

Useful reference.

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When the spin went out of hand

At the start of his career, Raju was a confused young man, as is the norm, writes Kingshuk Nag in ‘The Double Life of Ramalinga Raju: The story of India’s biggest corporate fraud’ (www.harpercollins.co.in).

“Returning to India in 1977 after completing MBA from Ohio University, Raju hadn’t a clue about what to do in life. Some friends told him that there was a part-time teaching job being offered in the Administrative Staff College of India. But Raju’s father, who called the shots at home, told him to forget self-doubts and focus on the family business.”

An early venture that the family of agriculturists went into was in hospitality, with Dhanunjaya Hotels P Ltd, in which Raju couldn’t make any success. And the floundering company was sold off a few years later, narrates Nag.

Textiles was to be another industry for ‘Satyam,’ in the form of ‘Sri Satyam Spinning Mills,’ a synthetic yarn manufacturing unit set up in the early 1980s. “But Raju had not yet learnt the ropes of business and the company could just manage to trot along.”

Then came the first software policy from the Government, in 1986, around when “Ramalinga’s country cousin, D. V. S. Raju, returned from the US. He had also gone to Ohio University, to study electronics engineering. D. V. S. Raju told Ramalinga that setting up an IT company would not be a bad idea.”

Thus was born Satyam Computer Services, on June 6, 1987, in a small office in P&T Colony in Secunderabad, with 20 employees. Not well versed with IT, Raju gave the charge of the company to D. V. S. Raju, and continued to concentrate on the yarn mill, though it was going nowhere, the author recounts. Satyam Constructions came up later, vested with Rama, the younger brother, ‘who had just returned from the US, having done an MBA from Laredo State University in Texas.’

A few years later, though Satyam Computers could move to a bigger office in the Begumpet area of Hyderabad, the finances were not very stable, the book traces. “It required frequent cash infusions. K. B. K. Raju, the promoter of the Nagarjuna group and the most prosperous businessman in the Raju community, bailed out the company a few times.”

Things got going when Satyam earned a US customer, John Deere, a tractor company based in Chicago, which engaged Satyam to develop some software for its operations…

Engaging account.

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Tailpiece

“As a first step in our new IT initiative, we hired a consultant…”

“To advise you on the hardware, software and so on?”

“No, to identify the right consultant who could do all that!”

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