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Challenges of Managing a Virtual (Remote) Team

Graduate Level: Please provide examples or point me in the right direction. Thanks.

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Please see response attached (also below), as well as two other articles to consider. I hope this helps and take care.


Challenges: Factors influencing Virtual Teams

From one source:

Social Factors. Increasing traffic congestion, air pollution, and parking problems, coupled with many people's desires to work at home are emerging factors. In addition, many people have difficulty working outside of the home. For example, people who are handicapped or who have childcare / eldercare responsibilities are candidates for telecommuting.

Technology Factors. Advanced technology is rapidly becoming available to support people on an any time, any where basis, and at an affordable cost. Products range from the simple telephone and fax machine to multimedia capable workstations and collaborative software. The communications system will soon provide the capability to transmit full motion video which will enable desktop conferencing. Collaborative software or computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) is a fundamental enabler. CSCW applications were covered in the previous section on information technology.

Business Factors. Businesses can reduce costs by having people telecommute. The demand for buildings and parking spaces can be reduced and therefore costs. People, especially sales people, can spend more time with their customers, instead of commuting to an office and then traveling to customer sites. People can also be recruited who live in different geographical areas who have no desire to relocate. Another business factor is, "the cost of market entry is often smaller than previously thought, especially in the information services and other technology-driven industries, where even under-capitalized startups can have an enormous impact on innovation" (Bleecker, 1994, p. 10). Looking at the trend of globalization, "businesses no longer compete only with their nearest rivals, but internationally" (Bleecker, 1994, p. 10). Finally, the pace of business is changing, especially in computers, communications, and content enterprises. Software products typically have a 12-18 month life, but now Internet browsers are rushed to the marketplace within 6 months, and beta versions are available for testing within two or three months. New hardware products are released every 1 to 2 years.

Government Factors. Both the U.S. Government and State Governments are encouraging businesses and people to explore and adopt telecommuting. It can reduce the demand for new highways and bridges and reduce air pollution. Some companies are already working on this. Raymond W. Smith (1994), CEO of Bell Atlantic, indicated that "at Bell Atlantic, we've expanded telecommuting from a trial of 100 managers three years ago to an option for all 16,000 of our management people today-and we're working with the union to open the option as much as possible to our 50,000 associates (p. 13)."
(Excerpted from

The following examples are excerpts, links and articles dealing with the challenges of managing virtual teams, as well as effective strategies to consider.

Example 1: Leading Virtual Team

Efficient participation in today's economy demands high reliance on effective leadership of technical and support teams whose members are scattered across many geographic boundaries. There are unique and distinctive requirements for leadership attention in the virtual project team or remote management situation, where individuals who share responsibilities for common goals reside in geographically dispersed locations.

Key findings from both research and best practices across many industries reveal that effective distance leadership includes the typical fundamentals for leading people and managing resources in a traditional office environment.

Challenges of Managing Virtual Teams

However, difficulties in the traditional environment can be significantly magnified in the virtual or remote situation. Difficulty with communicating; working together; and producing high-quality, on-time results is typically heightened by distance. Effective leaders need to quickly, confidently and competently diagnose such issues and take deliberate actions to keep project team relationships, productivity and outcomes on track. There is even more emphasis on the use of appropriate communications skills to fit the needs of the people and the situation.

There are five core categories of effective leadership skills in virtual project team or distance-management situations:

Communicating effectively and using technology that fits the situation
Building community, based on mutual trust, respect, fairness and affiliation, among project team members
Establishing clear and inspiring shared goals, expectations, purpose and vision
Leading by example with a focus on visible, measurable results
Coordinating/collaborating across organizational boundaries

Research also reveals a profile for employees who operate well in virtual project team situations. When possible, it's advisable to select team members who already demonstrate these characteristics or who are willing and able to develop them quickly. Employees tend to be more comfortable and effective if they are capable of performing the core tasks for their roles; self-disciplined; goal-directed; flexible; collaborative; willing to share and exchange information; open to feedback, change, differences in people and culture, ways of thinking, other discipline models or signature skills, and alternative approaches to processes; committed and connected to the business; and competent in using technology required for their roles.

Communicating effectively

Communicating effectively is the key with virtual project teams. In distance situations, effective communication requires careful attention to listening, presenting one's own thoughts and ideas as clearly as possible, focusing on conveying positive and constructive intent, choosing the right technology to quickly and sensitively express a clear message, and taking extra care to respectfully ensure understanding and expectations for action. It includes important feedback loops and networking and often requires daily contact during especially fast-changing times.

Effectively communicating in a virtual project team also necessitates careful diagnosis of any given situation to discern not only the task or work objective in question but also the emotional content (obvious or hidden) within the situation. It requires deliberate attention to the needs of the project team members and their desire for action or a remedy in a timely and sensitive manner. An especially effective technique is establishing ground rules that meet the needs of the project team and its leader.

The following are observable leadership actions for communicating ...

Solution Summary

By illustrative example, this solution describes the challenges of managing a virtual (remote) team. It provides a comprehensive coverage and two artilce are also attached, as well as many links for further research.