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Special Considerations for Managing Virtual Teams

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  • 0:03 Tech Connected
  • 1:01 Project Roles
  • 2:18 Scope Management
  • 3:10 Risks
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

When managing virtual teams, managers must take a closer look at job roles, project scope, and risk mitigation. In this lesson, we'll take a closer look at these special considerations for remote team managers.

Tech Connected

Amanda leads a marketing team with six diverse and talented individuals, but it's not your typical working arrangement. Why?

  • Troy and Diane are in Austin
  • Max is in Detroit
  • Reesa and Nikki are in San Francisco
  • Abel is in Tulsa

On top of this, Amanda herself is in Toronto! This group is part of a growing shift toward working remotely, or virtually, which means employees of the same company that are connected by technology and the internet. According to a recent Gallup survey, nearly half of American workers are now spending part of their time working from home or another location away from a central office or organization headquarters.

While there are many benefits of this type of working arrangement for both employees and employers, there are also challenges. Because Amanda is the team leader, she must be aware of a few important considerations that are unique to managing virtual teams.

Project Roles

Learning how to effectively manage a virtual team requires a manager who clearly defines job roles and responsibilities, effectively manages the scope of projects, and anticipates and plans for risks that can occur in virtual team environments. Let's take a look at a few key elements.

With in-house teams, there are lots of opportunities for team members to chat with each other throughout the day as they pass in the hallway, enjoy lunch, or stop by a colleague's office. Virtual teams lack this natural banter, making it more important than ever for job roles to be clearly outlined and defined. Why? Consider what could happen if this information isn't laid out. If Max and Nikki, for example, don't clearly understand their roles, they could take ownership over the same area, causing complications and frustrations.

For a virtual team manager, clarity is responsibility number one when dealing with remote workers. Spell out job roles and responsibilities that leave no room for confusion or duplication. This allows workers to feel confident in their respective duties. Once you've set the job functions for each person, ensure that they have the tools and resources necessary to adequately perform those tasks. Ensuring clarity in job roles and responsibilities gives remote workers confidence and autonomy in their work.

Scope Management

Scope management is all about guiding a project from start to finish on time and within budget. With workers spread across the country - or throughout the world - managing the scope of a project can prove difficult.

One tool that helps is a work breakdown structure. This is an illustrated representation that breaks work down into smaller tasks and shows who's assigned to complete them. A structure like this is the first line of reference for team members that are scattered in multiple locations to understand who's doing what. Many virtual teams use project management software to help in this area. This resource can be tailored in many ways to illustrate the various steps of a project and each team member's responsibilities. Scope management allows a manager to prevent duplicate work from happening, while ensuring that all team members are working together efficiently.

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