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Jesse Fewell
This interview with Jesse Fewell was recorded at the 2015 PMI Global Congress in Orlando, Florida. We discuss his paper and presentation "Can You Hear Me Now? Working with Global, Distributed, Virtual Teams". Here is the paper's abstract:

Today's work world has changed radically. Whether video chatting with China or taking a call at from home, more and more professional work is no longer in person. It can be frustrating, but a deeper look reveals some surprises: Everyone is doing it, and not just for costs; many organizations are thriving with it. Most pain points have simple work-arounds. This paper will walk you through tips and benefits for working with people outside your office.

With the rise of the Internet, emerging economies, and the trend of working from home, today’s professionals are dealing with a workplace that is very different from anything the world has ever seen. Never before in the history of mankind have we been able to conduct so much work, so quickly, with so many people outside our own location.

Of course, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. We struggle with time zone issues, language barriers, limited visibility, poor infrastructure, and so on and so on. Sometimes we choose remote teams intentionally for their benefits. But often, this kind of organizational structure is handed to managers and team members without choice.

This paper is about how to deal with all those issues and strengthen your teams.

Published in Blogs

We have all been told that communication with all stakeholders, particularly the core project team, is one of the central responsibilities of the Project Manager. We support this idea and have mentioned it in several of our previous articles. You may have seen a well-known communications formula of ‘N(N-1)/2’ used as proof that the addition of new members to any program or project team increases the number of communication channels exponentially. For example, if your team increases from 15 to 17, the number of possible communication channels goes up by 31; try the calculations and you’ll see what we mean.

Applying this theory, a small team may have ten to fifty communication channels, while a large team may have thousands. A Project Manager should understand that the time required to manage communications grows with the number of channels, and begin to look for ways to effectively and efficiently communicate with their project stakeholders – keeping in mind that different stakeholders require different information at different times in the project. (Our article on Project Success Planning covers this topic.) With the ease and availability of blogs in today’s corporate setting, you may be asking yourself, “Is blogging a good communication option for my project?”

Because each project phase requires the appropriate emphasis at a given time, the number of channels the program or project manager must manage varies throughout the lifecycle of a project. For example, in the early stage of a project – let’s call it Preliminary (or Discovery, the term we use in our article “Nine Essential Steps for Project Success”) – you may have a relatively low number of channels because you are only working with a few key stakeholders. In contrast, in the Execution or Deployment phase, your team will be fully engaged with many people. Further, communication by the project manager is a key area of focus as the project lifecycle draws to a close. Figure 1.1 below illustrates an example/typical scenario. (Note: the lifecycle phases are examples; your organisation probably has different ones).

Published in Blogs
Wednesday, 15 June 2011 21:00

Team Sports and Project Management

If you spend a reasonable amount of time working on projects, you are likely to hear team members use sports metaphors. This is a positive trait. Sports metaphors can be great motivators and examples of “how to do things.”

Beyond the metaphors, can methodologies in team sports suggest core practices for project management? We think the answer to this question is yes.

There are many similarities between project management and team sports. For the purpose of this article, we focus on eight areas that we feel are particularly relevant.

Published in Blogs
Thursday, 02 June 2011 21:49

Nine Fundamental Steps to Project Success

85If you are an experienced project practitioner you may be asked at some point, ”What are the key things that a Project Manager should do in order to be successful?” There is no one-line, simple answer to this question. Success depends on many factors, including the organization for which you work, the power granted or bestowed on the project manager, the responsibilities they are given on their project, and other influencing criteria. Having said that, we have found over the years that there do exist certain factors which, when done well, usually influence success. Let us elaborate.

First, we must establish your expectations as the reader. The nine steps we put forth in this article are not a “Holy Grail” for successfully managing a project. They represent actions which, if undertaken with purpose and meaning, can help set your project on the path to success, and keep it on that path. Think of the nine steps in this manner: if you are planning a road trip by car, there will be many steps to your plan (many of which you will do automatically); check that your vehicle is in good working order, ensure you have a map of the route, be certain that you have fuel, and so on. Some steps in this plan are more critical than others. This is the same principle we are applying to these “success factors” for project management. The nine steps are not in a sequence; whilst Step 1 will be undertaken before the others, the others may be undertaken in a different order.

Published in Blogs
In mid-2010, we wrote an article about project communications which focused on the challenges and techniques of communicating in a virtual team. We gave some examples of when to use different communications mediums to suit the task at hand. In this follow-up communications piece, we talk about some of the nuances of working in an international project team, and in particular, some things to bear in mind when you communicate with, and present to people from cultures different from your own.
Published in Blogs
Monday, 15 November 2010 04:00

Managing a Virtual Project Team

VirtualTeam

Let’s face it; virtual teams (where we work with colleagues in remote locations, be they close by or in different countries) are now a reality in the workplace. If this trend in the workplace environment continues, virtual working will increasingly influence the way we operate, and the ‘effective virtual team worker’ will be a valued asset. A key benefit to forming virtual teams is the ability to cost-effectively tap into a wide pool of talent from various locations. There are several definitions of the virtual team worker, but within the context of this article, we are talking about people who work on project teams and who display the following attributes:

  • They work primarily from a particular office (maybe a home office, or maybe a fixed work location), and they are not expected to travel each week as a part of their job (i.e. road warrior) or be physically in the office on a daily basis.
  • They likely work from home one or more days per week.

Most project managers with a few years experience or more are likely to have managed a project where some or even all of the project members were remotely located. How different is managing a virtual project team from a co-located team? Are there additional considerations or risks involved in managing a virtual team? Before we answer these questions, one must first understand the dynamics of the virtual team worker.

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