Systemize and Automate Part 2 – Setting Up Your Team

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No matter which type of virtual team model is best for your business, you do have to make sure everyone knows her role, as well as what she is accountable for.  Even if you prefer to keep your team members isolated and unaware of each other, interacting only through a single manager (you or a virtual management specialist you’ve hired) who acts as a gatekeeper, it’s a good idea to let each team member know how their role impacts the production line – and your launch date. 

If you have a production “line”, send each member a mind-map or chart, showing how each one’s fulfillment affects the next person along the line.  Let them know what the consequences are if one member fails to fulfill.  When you are interviewing members (especially web designers) ask them how they manage scope creep.

This is a phenomenon that affects any project in which (a) several members are involved (b) client parameters cannot be exact. 

Exact (minimal to no scope creep)
Imprecise (invites scope creep)
One blog post, 750 words maximum.
Photo with ragged clouds over building

As you can see in the table above, knowing that you want no more than 750 words written helps your write plan and deliver on time.  She is able to accurately predict how long this will take, based on her writing experience. 

3-Four hay bales cloudsIf you are vague or imprecise in directions (“I want this photo to show the sky with ragged clouds over a building”) you may waste your own and the photographer’s time demanding reshoots…

…All because you forgot to tell him that you want the photograph to be shot with old, decaying, round hay bales in front of the building; and that the latter should be abandoned, as well as surrounded by encroaching forest.

Make sure you understand what you are asking, too.  Not understanding the process your photographer has to go through to create what you specify can be a major source of scope creep.  For example, he comes back with the exact shot you need, and you have kittens because he’s billed you an extra six-hundred-and-fifty dollars.  (“Last month, when I wanted those apples re-shot, it only cost me the price of the shots!”  “Yes, but to find exactly what you needed I had to drive round the eastern part of the state behind the foothills for four hours; then rent a front-end loader to move four old hay bales to a spot in front of the building.  There’s a one-hundred-dollar-an-hour minimum for location-seeking in non-studio shots, remember?  Plus the cost of the front-end loader…”)

That’s scope creep – and that’s something you need to be aware of, when dealing with virtual employees and contractors for your project-based business.

Some common examples of scope creep:

  • Your own client asks for rewrite after rewrite on that simple 750-word blog post he ordered, which your copywriter supplied.  Since she specified “one rewrite only” included in her services, you now have to pay her far more than the job is worth.   
  • The client wants “one small little detail changed” in the web design you presented and delivered on target.  That small detail loses you (through your web designer) an additional nine hours and impacting the rest of the team.
  • Your virtual assistant doesn’t tell you she had to put in fifteen extra hours to set up your shopping cart, because you chose one that doesn’t integrate with your Autoresponder without major tweaking.  You choke at the bill.

What you should hear from the potential team member you are interviewing is that they have concrete methods of allowing for and dealing with scope creep, such as:

  1. A set number of (revisions, words, re-shoots, tweaks, redesigns)
  2. A set of protocols she follows and questions she asks
  3. Failsafes in place, such as Contracts, Client Questionnaires or Project Sheets

Failing that, she should ask you what your protocols are for dealing with curveballs such as scope creep.

And you should have an answer!  (If a potential team member says, “What’s scope creep?”, don’t hire him!)