Project Management

How Successful Are Virtual Project Teams?

Ken Whitaker of Leading Software Maniacs (LSM) has more than 25 years of software development executive leadership and training experience in a variety of technology roles and industries. He has led commercial software teams at Software Publishing (remember Harvard Graphics?), Data General, embedded systems software companies, and enterprise software suppliers. Ken is an active PMI member, Project Management Professional (PMP) certified, and a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM). Sources for LSM's material come from case studies, personal leadership experience, the PMI Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) and Ken's leadership books: Managing Software Maniacs, Principles of Software Development Leadership and I'm Not God, I'm Just a Project Manager.

Recently, there’s been a flurry of culture changes due to Marissa Mayer’s new stand of “no more telecommuting” at Yahoo. This proclamation apparently wasn’t intended to be an official company announcement, but was a leaked internal e-mail to the press. Probably a jolt to Yahoo’s cultural nerve center, this change of policy has caused considerable press and social media dialog with an industry (software development) that has migrated more and more to a virtual, telecommuting industry.

There are definitely two camps on this subject, and not much in the middle (this topic is going to be fun to discuss!). Perhaps you’re dealing with this situation, too…

Signs that Your Company is in Trouble?
We all know of companies where virtual teams work well and others where they don’t. My wife’s company is practically 100% virtual, with project managers and customer implementation managers leading complex customer and team interactions from remote, home offices. Yet I know of many other situations where employees prefer the physical interaction and claim that working virtually would be a disaster--mainly due to lack of focus (too many distractions) and lack of human interaction.

According to Raymond Fisman’s article “Yahoo workers must show up”, Yahoo lost its way and its leadership position in a …

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"In the real world, the right thing never happens in the right place and the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to make it appear that it has."

- Mark Twain