Distributed and Virtual Teams in Project Management

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 3
Words: 579
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Master

Characteristics of Distributed and Virtual Teams

The internet continues to facilitate the use of virtual and distributed teams. Such virtual teams are usually situated in different parts of the world (Gundersen, Hellesoy, and Raeder, 2012). Project managers can use the internet to monitor the performance and effectiveness of different virtual teams. This practice is usually done in order to produce timely results. The internet is, therefore, a unique resource used to support virtual teams.

The use of matrix strategies makes it easier for targeted virtual teams to focus on their responsibilities. The structure empowers project managers to delegate duties and monitor the performance of different followers. The other unique characteristic of distributed teams is that they interact among themselves (Iorio and Taylor, 2014). Such interactions are characterized ‘by hierarchical relationships’ (Leading distributed and virtual teams, 2015, p. 2). However, the developed peer-to-peer coordination reduces the hierarchy. The practice eventually produces a flat leadership structure.

Past studies have shown conclusively that virtual and distributed teams are usually short-term in nature. This is the case because the groups are developed to deliver specific objectives. Such teams might be dissolved after the targeted goals are realized (Iorio and Taylor, 2014). This characteristic explains why virtual teams support different phases of a project.

Iorio and Taylor (2014) indicate that virtual and distributed teams encounter a wide range of challenges. Such obstacles arise ‘from emerging technologies, project complexity, team adaptation, planning, and course leadership’ (Leading distributed and virtual teams, 2015, p. 1). The issue of culture also dictates the success of these virtual teams. The members of these teams interact from different physical locations. Individuals should communicate with one another despite their cultural differences.

Appropriate Leadership Behaviors and Practices

Project managers should use desirable leadership initiatives whenever working with virtual and distributed teams. Such leadership practices should be informed by the unique characteristics of such distributed teams (Verburg, Bosch-Sijtsema, and Vartiainen, 2010). To begin with, the managers must use evidence-based leadership styles in order to engage the targeted teams. The individuals will be empowered and motivated to support the implemented project.

It is necessary for project managers to promote the best strategies that can produce positive behaviors in every virtual team. The strategy will minimize misunderstandings and eventually encourage the team members to focus on the targeted goals. Whenever there is a crisis, the project manager should act as a facilitator (Tyssen, Wald, and Spieth, 2014). The approach will deal with stress and promote cohesiveness. The practice will eventually make the targeted virtual team successful.

Project managers should identify existing opportunities and address role confusion. This practice can empower the team members to focus on the project’s objectives. Project managers should ‘help different members of the team to interpret content and intent’ (Leading distributed and virtual teams, 2015, p. 2). This approach will minimize conflict and confusion in every distributed team. The other unique behavior is guiding and empowering more members of the distributed teams. By so doing, the morale and effectiveness of the workers will be improved.

Iorio and Taylor (2014) believe that project managers should ensure the targeted objectives are clearly defined. They should communicate such goals to the workers and equip them with the right resources. A positive organizational structure is critical for these teams because they collaborate to deliver positive results. Finally, managers should dissolve groups that have realized their goals and focus on the other distributed teams. Such practices will eventually support the implementation and success of every project.


Gundersen, G., Hellesoy, B. and Raeder, S. (2012) ‘Leading international project teams: the effectiveness of transformational leadership in dynamic work environments’, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 19(1), 46-57.

Iorio, J. and Taylor, J. (2014) ‘Precursors to engaged leaders in virtual project teams’, International Journal of Project Management, 33(1), 395-405.

Leading distributed and virtual teams (2015) Baltimore: Laureate Education Incorporation.

Tyssen, A., Wald, A. and Spieth, P. (2014) ‘The challenge of transactional and transformational leadership in projects’, International Journal of Project Management, 32(1), 365-375.

Verburg, R., Bosch-Sijtsema, P. and Vartiainen, M. (2010) ‘Getting it done: critical success factors for project managers in virtual work settings’, International Journal of Project Management, 31(1), 68-79.