Managing Remote Teams: Management Theories


By Ralph Moore MISM, PMP, PMI-ACP

Wyoming, USA


Managing remote project teams has many challenges due to the physical separation of the team. All members of a project team will be different and have their own specific needs. As the project manager, you should apply management theories regarding the type of employee and their needs. Applying the theories of Douglas McGregor, Frederick Herzberg, Abraham Maslow and David McClelland will improve team dynamics, communications and the overall project performance.

This article will examine McGregors’s X and Y Theory, Herzberg’s Theory: Hygiene Factor, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need and David McClelland’s Theory of Need in relation to managing remote project teams.

The success of a remote team will largely depend on the individual team members assigned to the team and the management style. The Project Manager will be required to trust the team and the individuals themselves. Having knowledge of McGregors’s X and Y Theory will be beneficial in one of the key aspects of managing a remote team, team selection. Managing a remote team with the X Theory will be very difficult. The X Theory “This assumes that employees are naturally unmotivated and dislike working, and this encourages an authoritarian style of management. According to this view, management must actively intervene to get things done.” (MindTools, n.d.). Obviously, the X Theory will not be a good choice for managing remote project teams because management would not have the ability to intervene with the team due to being spread across a large geographical region and multiple time zones. The X Theory of management will work best with an on premise team.

Whereas, the Y Theory states, “This expounds a participative style of management that is de-centralized. It assumes that employees are happy to work, are self-motivated and creative, and enjoy working with greater responsibility” (MindTools, n.d.). The Y Theory of management will complement remote teams and facilitate the team to thrive and be successful. Once the decision has been made to implement remote teams, then the management must trust the employees and the team, which supports the Y Theory of management.

Once the remote project team is selected, as the Project Manager it will be important to the success of the team to understand the needs of the individuals that make up the team. Understanding and applying the theories of Herzberg, Maslow and McClelland will assist the Project Manager in meeting the needs of the team and the individuals that make up the team.

Herzberg’s Hygiene Factor plays an important part in the success of remote project teams. Remote employees do not report into the office each day and may start to feel disconnected. Understanding what is important in a position to the employees and being able to work with them to provide a good balance of working conditions, salary, personal life, working relationships, security and status will engage the team members.

Remote project teams will generally work from home, which for most team members will contribute to great working conditions. Team members will work from the comfort of their home, which will eliminate a daily commute to the office, which is a huge benefit to the team members. Working from home will also contribute to a good work and personal life balance.

The hiring manager, human resources and resulting negations from the employee, will generally determine salary. The goal is to provide a salary that is within industry standards. If this requirement is over looked and the salary is too low, this will cause a dis-satisfier and may lead to poor performance by the team member. Poor performance by just one team member can lead to poor team performance.

Working relationships are very important in business in general, but are extremely important when working with remote project teams. The team members are isolated and generally spend the day alone in a home office. The Project Manager should take action to have the team members engaged with each other. Examples could include:


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About the Author

Ralph Moore, MISM, PMP, PMI-ACP

Wyoming, USA



Ralph Moore is an experienced professional with more than 20 years in agile and traditional project management as well as roles in Information Technology, Engineering, Telecommunications, Military, Public Safety and Education.

Ralph has earned a Master of Information Systems Management (MISM) degree with a Concentration in Information Systems Tools, a Bachelor of Science Technical Management and an Associate of Science Electronic and Computer Technology.

Ralph has earned several industry certifications to include: PMI-Certified Project Management Professional (PMP), PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), CompTIA Certified Security+, CompTIA Certified Network+, Electronics Technician Association Certified Network Systems Technician (CNST), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), General Radio Telephone License (GROL).

Ralph is a veteran of the US Navy and served three tours in the Persian Gulf. He maintained a TOP-SECRET clearance while in the US Navy. Ralph resides in the Rocky Mountain region, with his wife Tracy and their dogs. To contact – [email protected]