The project manager's planning work is just that, planning. There is a reason you see coaches and managers on the sidelines during games; they are needed as much then as they are needed during practice. If practice was the only important aspect of a coach's role, there would be no need for her or him during the game, where all that practice is executed. The same can be said for virtual project managers as projects move into execution.
If planning work was done well, an integrated project plan will be created that represents the collective work that needs to be accomplished by the team during project execution. If best practices for virtual projects were used, there was likely one or more face-to-face meetings to solidify the project charter and team charter, cement project member roles and expectations based on the project's business case, demystify any assumptions or rumors about any team member and cultural beliefs, and enjoy some social time to get to know one another and establish team chemistry. Hopefully, this did occur; even if it did, though, it does not mean that the synergy will be maintained once the team and the work are redistributed geographically, organizationally, and culturally. A one-time face-to-face meeting or event does not make a team perform at a high level. The most important aspect of any such event is not the event itself but what happens afterward. (See the box titled “Actions Speak Louder than Words.”)