Challenges of Managing a Virtual Team with an Ocean in Between


By Pilar Plazas



The way we complete projects has been changing at a very fast pace, especially in the last two decades. Now, we operate in a totally global environment. Project teams are not exclusively located in the same building or even in the same city. It is not unusual to manage teams with a wide range of skills, knowledge, experience, perceptions and even cultural backgrounds dispersed across multiple geographical locations. One of the strengths of virtual teams is the real richness that comes from diversity. Likewise, these teams present numerous challenges for the Project Manager (PM). Despite diversity’s aggregated value and challenges, the Project Manager’s goal is still to deliver the project within budget and on time according to the Project Management Plan. It is a challenging task even more so with this type of teams and much of the learning curve is still ahead of us. However, using some basic principles make it possible for the Project Manager to successfully lead the global team. Managers who micro-manage and do not trust employees will not be able to successfully manage virtual teams. Today’s Project Manager must thrive in the virtual environment, trust team members, and manage for results rather than for input. The PM needs to adapt, learn more, and enjoy the process while communicating a positive message to the team. After all, global teams are becoming more common than collocated teams as Project Management moves forward.


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Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 6th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2012.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and UT Dallas.

About the Author

pilar-plazascolumbia-mapPilar Plazas

Pilar Plazas is a Colombian Microbiologist graduated from Los Andes University. Through a partnership between Los Andes and Harvard Universities, she obtained her certification in Molecular Biology and started working in the research of synthetic vaccines including malaria. Later, she attended Drury University, where she obtained her MBA and quickly went onto gaining experience in both Non-profit and private sectors. Then, she attended TUI University where she received with Summa Cum Laude honors her Master of Science in Clinical Research Administration. During the past six years, Pilar has worked with Quintiles in multiple roles including Project Coordinator, Global Project Manager and Program Lead. She is considered highly skilled in communicating with multi-cultural project teams, clients and senior management while maintaining project momentum and a commitment to project success. Pilar is an active member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and holds a current PMP Certification. Most recently she has been appointed Senior Global Project Manager and Global Account Manager; she has also obtained her Scrum Master Certification. She can be contacted at [email protected]