Mastering Virtual Teams: Training Virtual Project Teams to Be Successful


By Lawrence V. Suda, CEO

Palatine Group, Inc.

New York, USA


This is the age of the virtual project leader. In fact, today it is actually rare to lead a team that is physically located in one place. Projects propel someone, somewhere to lead a project to successful completion. This may be the result of a global merger, acquisition, new partnership, alliance or joint venture and new projects and services launched globally. It is not even uncommon to find a person who manages a functional area like human resources to find that they are also virtual team leaders on new organizational initiatives.

It’s been our experience that very quickly most virtual project team leads find that leading a remote team requires a special set of competencies. No doubt that the traditional leadership principles apply to remote teams, but virtual project team leaders have unique challenges. First, they have to rely on communication technology to send and receive information. As a result, they need to modify the ways in which they communicate, give feedback and gather information. It’s not as easy as going to the cubicle next to you or walking up to the next floor to seek information or get answers to tough questions. There is also the need to have a common language in which all team members are fluent. Time zone differences create very real problems and have a disruptive effect on team members’ personal lives.

The first step was to understand what it is specifically that our remote leaders, teams and individuals find difficult about being remote project team members.

Virtual Team Definition and Needs

We use the following definition for virtual teams:

A virtual team is a group of people who are working on the same business or business issue, but are located at different geographic sites and rely mainly on some form of technology to facilitate the work discussion. This includes situations when only one team member works from remote location, when the team works together only temporarily or when the members work only some of their time remotely.

We have asked virtual project leaders about their biggest challenges and invariably the answer is the greater burden and responsibilities it places on them. We used a “Team Effectiveness” model and to structure our virtual workshop questionnaire in remote leadership areas to formulate individual questions.

The areas we specified were:

  • Communication and Information sharing
  • Coaching and Development
  • Relationships
  • Leadership & Direction Setting
  • Structure & Roles
  • Tasks
  • Decision making
  • Reward and recognition

From over 200 responses we have made the following observations of areas of greatest challenges and needs when trying to lead a virtual team. It is important to note that these responses were from current virtual project leaders leading complex international team members on various high-tech products.


To read entire paper (click here)

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.  This paper was originally presented at the PMI Global Congress North America 2012 in Vancouver, BC, Canada and included in the congress proceedings; republished here with author’s permission.

About the Author

Lawrence-V.-Sudaflag-usaLawrence V. Suda 

Palatine Group / Management Worlds

New York, USA

Lawrence Suda is the CEO and an Officer at Palatine group/Management Worlds, Inc. with over 30 years project and program management consulting and training experience to numerous government and private sector companies. The Palatine Group/Management Worlds specializes in creating computer-based simulations for project management and leadership training. Larry’s career emphasis is on organization behavior, project management, operations management, strategic management and enterprise-wide project management for leading companies and government agencies throughout the world, including: NASA, US Navy, Departments of Commerce, Treasury, Energy, Health & Human Services , Agriculture, DAU and others and in the private sector to such companies as General Electric, Proctor & Gamble,  ALCOA, URS, Verizon, Boeing, Lockheed/Martin, Hewlett-Packard, Perot Systems, PPG Industries, United States Steel and others. Before founding Palatine Group/Management Worlds, Larry worked in the private and public sectors at the US Environmental Protection Agency and was an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland. Mr. Suda is a frequent speaker at PMI and IPMA Conferences in the United States and Europe and has led workshops for PMI’s Seminars World in various locations around the World. He is an adjunct professor at Drexel University teaching Global Project Leadership.  He can be contacted at [email protected].