Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

How to make your business more environmentally friendly

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

I have a friend who is a nurse at a large hospital in the Baltimore area. She is committed to environmental causes, and has an “activist” personality – when she disagrees with something, she doesn’t stand by silently and watch things unfold. So when she could no longer tolerate all the bad environmental practices at her workplace, she decided to send the president of the hospital a letter along with a copy of the movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” Eventually, after some follow-up phone calls, she was put in touch with one of the executives of the hospital and is now heading up a committee to try to change some of the less-than-environmentally-friendly practices and policies.

She is frustrated. It’s hard work, slow-going and difficult for a nurse to get buy-in from the executives and directors. She’s putting in sometimes 40 extra hours per week on this project (on top of her regular hours). She is not getting paid for the additional work. And she feels guilty about spending so much time on the project because she could be playing with her daughters.

When I saw my friend a couple of weeks ago, I asked her if it was worth it. She couldn’t really answer me because she feels like nothing has changed from her efforts. But she is hopeful. And she made a convincing argument about why she is trying so hard.

Her belief is that even though she helps her family be environmentally conscious – by recycling, using energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, eating locally grown food, driving a hybrid car – they will never have the environmental impact that the one hospital has in a very short period of time.

I looked it up. According to the Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) Web site, “The nation’s hospitals generate approximately 6,600 tons of waste per day. Though we commonly associate hospitals with regulated medical waste generation, as much as 80 to 85% of a health care facility’s waste is non-hazardous solid waste—such as paper, cardboard, food waste, metal, glass, and plastics—similar to what you would find in other commercial facilities.”

In contrast, each individual in the U.S. generates on average 4.4 pounds of waste per day per person. Don’t get me wrong, this is still bad because over the course of a lifetime, the average American will throw away 45,000 tons of trash.

But the hospitals in the U.S. generate that much waste in 6.8 days.

This sounds like I am drawing a conclusion that one person doesn’t make a difference, that no matter what our individual efforts are, they will never be enough to combat the negative impact of big business. But I’m not saying that one person can’t change the world –one person can have a significant impact, just look at my friend – but a company has a much bigger environmental footprint than any one person, and a big company even more so. So perhaps the time of the each individual is well-spent trying to influence the people around them. Change from the bottom up.

So what can your company do? And how can you help to influence the people around you to change? Here are some ways to get things done that will make a positive environmental impact.

Let your employees telecommute. Some corporate cultures are still trying to get over the idea that employees are less efficient if they work from home. The truth of the matter is that companies that offer telecommuting enjoy improved productivity of 7% to 20% or more. And every person that works from home helps the environment. To see just how much, check out this calculator that allows you to measure the amount of emissions and gasoline that is saved through telecommuting by entering the number of workers, miles of the commute and number of days working from home. Just see how quickly the numbers add up.

Recycle. This may seem so obvious. But one company that I worked at (recently!) had no recycling at the office. None. There were not even any bins to recycle paper. When I left that job, I spent the last two weeks cleaning out my office and hauling boxes of paper and magazines to the church down the street where they have a paper recycling dumpster.

Get a paper recycling dumpster. There are probably many places you can do this, but the one that I have seen is Paper Retriever. By signing up for the program, you can get a paper recycling dumpster in your office’s parking lot, fill it with paper and then donate the proceeds to a local school or environmental charity.

Use an environmentally friendly Web host. Facilities like Affordable Internet Services Online (AISO) use solar panels to run their data center and servers that reduce energy use by 60%.

Start reading an environmental blog.
Here are 20 options. By reading an environmental blog every day, it will help keep you plugged into environmental issues and thinking about ways that you can make a difference.

There’s a lot that you can do. There’s even more that your company can do with your help

~ Surprising Green ~

5 things you can learn about being a project manager by organizing a community service project

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Pink RibbonThis past weekend, I participated in a benefit walk to raise money for breast cancer research.
My team did the walk in honor of my grandma, so a large number of my family members and friends decided to participate. And although I can’t take credit for the idea, I did end up taking charge of most of the logistics and organization of the group. It turns out that you can learn a lot about project management by heading up a charity event and organizing a group of volunteers. So if you want to become a better manager, but don’t want to practice “on the job,” it might be worth the time to get a group of people together to do a good deed. In the process, you might find out the answers to these five questions:

·         Are you are an effective leader? – To be a leader, people need to follow you. By inviting people to participate in a community service event, you can gauge your ability to lead. If people are willing to give up their free time to participate in the event that you’re organizing, you’re likely going to be able to get your employees to help you with a work-related project. Granted, in a work situation, you’re paying people and they are required to follow you, but that issue is likely comparable to the loyalty that people feel to the cause that you’re working toward with your community service project. If you have trouble getting people to participate, however, don’t despair; you can learn how to be a better leader.

·         Are you able to organize deadlines and logistics? – This is one of the most important skills that a project manager needs to have (second only to having a complete understanding of the project that they are managing). Being able to keep track of all the details of a project is the key to finishing it successfully, and this type of project will give you experience organizing the details from registration to fundraising to the itinerary on the day of the event.

·         How good are you at communicating with a diverse group of people? – This was a big issue for me because I was organizing a group of family members of varied technology backgrounds and abilities, and I was organizing everything via e-mail and the Internet. Everyone had an e-mail address, but it really differed how much each person used e-mail and felt comfortable with that mode of communication. A community service project often brings together people of different backgrounds that are organized around a common cause, and will give you valuable experience in working with diverse groups of people, whether it is their technology or ethnic backgrounds that make them diverse.

·         Do you have the ability to get other people to help you? – I organized this event from 300 miles away, so I wasn’t at the family BBQs when much of the informal discussion happened. Some people who lived in town, however, kept me in the loop about what was talked about, and one person volunteered to help get a room for us to meet in afterward. A community service project will inspire many volunteers, and will teach you to take help when it’s offered – especially if the help that’s offered is with doing something that you can’t get done easily yourself.

·         Are you a creative problem-solver? – One of the problems with this event was that in order for my team to get the official t-shirts for the walk, we had to order them 45 days ahead of time. This was simply not possible as the majority of the team didn’t even register until 2-3 weeks before the event. My backup plan was to use a t-shirt guy that my husband knows – but his lead time was 30 days. In my desperation (I wish I could say “In my creativity!”), I headed to the Internet where I found a slew of online t-shirt providers that could ship customized t-shirts within 7 days (as long as I rushed the order). This completely alleviated the stress of trying to get this done before I was physically able to. Snafus like this one are bound to come up with any project that you manage, providing many opportunities to try to think creatively about the problem to come up with a solution that won’t take all of your time and will get the issue solved.



~ Today’s view:

How to prepare for the globalization of your Internet business

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007


GlobalizationThis is not a comprehensive list of the things that you’ll need to do to prepare your Internet business for globalization, but you need to start somewhere. And if you haven’t started yet, now is the time. This quote in a recent press release from comScore says it all: “Internet users outside the U.S. now account for 80% of the world’s online population, with rapidly developing countries experiencing double-digit growth rates year-over-year.”

Let me repeat that – 80% of the world’s online population is made up of Internet users outside the U.S. Internet users are multinational. It’s time to get started on this. Here’s how.

1)      Make sure your tech people at every level of the organization know the strategic plan for globalization. You may or may not have a CIO or CTO who typically sits at the table for strategic technology planning, but do not leave even the lower-level tech folks out of the discussion on this issue. For globalization to even have a chance at working, the technology behind your site needs to support globalization. And that technology is fairly complicated. My (incredibly) simplified understanding of the issue is that you need to use Unicode. But trust me, there’s way more to it. Just take a look at Microsoft’s “Globalization Step-by-Step.” You need your tech people on this one.

2)      Get psyched up about hiring someone who lives and works outside of the country in which you operate. In order to effectively localize your site so that it really works for people in the country that you’re trying to reach, you’re going to need to hire someone who actually lives in that country. This is the only way that you’ll be able to avoid creating a site that – for the lack of a better way to describe it – feels weird to the local users 

3)      Pick your short list of target countries. Just because you’re starting to look into globalization, that doesn’t mean that you should tackle every country at once. One suggestion is to take a look at the international traffic that is already coming to your Web site by examining your site analytics or log files. Chances are that the countries that are sending you a lot of traffic before you’ve done anything to your site are going to continue to provide a good market for your products and services.

4)      Register your domain name with the appropriate country-code top-level domains. There are rules that apply to the registering of these domains – some countries require citizenship, for example – but it is always worth trying to get the country-appropriate domain name to support your site.

5)      Practice patience. Just like your original business wasn’t built in a day, neither will your international extensions. It will take time for the local versions of your site to take off and for your site to become established in the markets that you’re trying to penetrate. Stick with it.

~ Today’s view: