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Saint John Walker

Saint John Walker

Saint has spent 20 years helping the UK VFX industry get the right talent. Currently working in VFX, he has also co-authored the popular Core Skills of VFX handbook for ScreenSkills

Location East Anglia. Somewhere.



  • Paywalls. Walled Gardens of learning. If you use the connectivity of the web, you'll often bump into these walls. This is also true if you are researching a topic and you dont have an affiliation to a College/university. People would suggest I'm not excluded, I just have to pay. That's a major form of exclusion?

  • Would collaborative be a better vector than social?- which I think is a loaded expression.

  • I guess it depends on the unconscious bias' we bring to personae- they become reflections of the people we know in our own social class and our experience. Thus the designed course can avoid those who maybe most need it, because certain needy demographics might be invisible to us....and then we wonder why certain sections of the population don't opt into our...

  • The fact that 13 years later the rendition of an interview in SL has none of the warmth or nuance of a 'filmed' interview is indicative of how little the creators of Virtual Environments have learnt about human social behaviour in the intervening time.

  • Hi all. I'm in creative industries education, and looking to mix PM skills with Course Design and industry stakeholder activities.

  • I think the idea of the project as a temporarey organisation was a useful one i hadn't considered, as is the idea you are working towards your obsolescence! I enjoyed the explanation of Project Handover and then the Lean and Agile approaches.
    It's also clear that as a PM you need to have at least some people skills to go with your spreadsheet nous!

  • Cheers.
    >>some comments to bear in mind heading into Week 3.
    I thought this was a 2 week course?

  • Interesting, thanks

  • In my line of work it would be interesting to see Agile applied to Course Curriculum Development, that tends to follow traditional linear formats, often leading to some obsolescance before the course is finished. Scrums and sprints around modules and marking structures seem entirely possible.

  • >>>Might there be some projects where an Agile Project Management methodology may not be suitable?
    I thonk agile is a culture as well as a methodology. Small fleet-of-foot companies working flexibly on time sensitive projects probably exploit Agile better, where everyone is also learning to adapt their roles as they go. Companies where everyone has their name...

  • Firstly communicate diplomatically, reminding staff of contracts. It might be necessary to speak to the project sponsor, and in some cases, liaise with the OM. You want to be thinking ahead to how you might need to replace key personnel, and what effect this would have on budget/resources.
    Do not be sentimental or compromise the project.

  • Great diagram. So, there must on occasion be conflict between the two as the PM is temporary, whereas the OM has wider responsibilities and so sticks around and has to deal with any blowback?

  • >.>Have you experienced any of these models of project management?
    Agile Methodologies are often used in the design of Computer Games and I can now see why. Iterative models are very useful in image based projects- to see a rough version first ensures you are on the right track.

  • Pedagogy has been replaced by lists IMHO

  • I think a robot has taken over the writing of this course.

  • I'm finding this a little stodgy- be nice to have case studies

  • The Scope/Time/Budget interdependency triangle. This is the reason for a Just in Time supply chain culture, and our clogged roads with freight...

  • Handover training is something I'm aware of, and it's an art to train the client enough to enable them to train their staff, so you don't get sucked in to a dependency culture.

  • It must be tempting to play down the Post Project Review especially if time is tight and you are over budget- who wants to spend more money in that case? Also if everyone's thoughts are on moving on to the next project. However logging the lessons learnt is an investment that pays off next time round.

  • In a people-centred project, debriefing and even aftercare are important to get right- and if the team is diffused across the world it's more of a challenge. I can imagine the frustration too if key workers aren't debriefed or visibly appreciated.

  • Having some kind of event- a punctuation point like a 'wrap party' common in the film industry is a good way to create a perception of closure, and wean off those people who have relioed on your every word, but this event itself needs to be project managed, and there's usually a 'mop up' aftermath to sort out too. A good PM will want to keep everyone sweet, in...

  • A PM needs to curate information- filter what people are told to focus on, but still maintain a common vision for all participants

  • >>> Can you share an example of a time where you have seen bad communication cause problems for a project? How about examples of good communication

    Sometimes 'presenteeism' of the PM is symbolic, but on other occasions it is efficacious- for staff to be able to ask questions as they turn up, rather than long email threads. In the Creative Industries, great...

  • It's Air Traffic Control rather than being the pilot- only you are also responsible for the loos and the drinks trolley working to spec, and booking, planning and evaluation too. Stakeholders aren't just the passengers either.

  • Having a broad portfolio of businesses like Tesla means risk can be allayed. I wonder also if there's a point where risk is good PR in this area.

  • Is there a dimension of the Comms Management Plan that deals with Stakeholder comms- who needs to know, and when? So far it's all about internal comms.

  • "The project manager and the project management team must also ensure that information and its management does not get relegated to secondary importance".
    I can understand how this can happen in the unpredictability and 'busyness' of the project, and I'd imagine it would be easy to forget about archiving and evaluation when under the cosh of a deadline.

  • Actually I don't think the question was well defined- it might have been better to give a concrete case study example to tease out responses. There was a previous FutureLearn course that had an example of an ice cream factory owned by a family which was a bit like a soap opera.

  • Only relevant info please. The wing span of an African Swallow doesn't concern me here. (Monty Python reference for those not familiar)

  • Hmm, does the information manager need to be an expert in the field of endeavour to know who the experts are to call upon? Or have an idea of what to filter down to the team? Or do they just need to be good at mastering the info cycle? I'm imagining if an Info manager is unsure of the field they will be cautious and just pass on all the info to the team,...

  • >>>how do you think the “Five Ws” could be used as the basis for initial investigation?
    To help decide what is in and out of scope. What is unachievable or impossible, or within grasp.

  • Optimally managing the triangle of Costs, Resources and Time towards a defined and finite goal.

  • I didn't read the article, because I didnt want to sign up for more spam. Another case study written by ARU could have been more useful to tease out certain learning?

  • We need to remember to focus on managing Risk, not trying to eradicate in. Innovation springs from risk, anything new or progressive is a risk. Also too much control can breed a culture that sticks with what it knows and doesn't grow.

  • >>>Have you experienced any projects where attitudes and approaches to risk have had a significant effect on a project (good or bad)?
    We introduced Risk Registers to student degree projects at University. Students tend to overpredict/over-emphasise the probability of things happening but underplayed the impact. This is because they often lack experience of...

  • This part of the course has a higher word count- I wonder if that's because its a different author, or just the nature of explaining risk. Might be useful to have an example to bring it alive as a subject?

  • Residual Risk: Maybe probability and impact have been damprened, but the risk is still there...
    Secondary Risk: If too many resources are invested in managing one particular risk, this may generate other risks elsewhere.

  • I can feel that famous Donald Rumsfeld quote coming...about the things we know we don't know..."There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know"

  • "Risks also offer opportunities and advantages, as do the management actions decided upon to deal with risks; these provide important advantages to the project". I wasn't sure what this means. By solving potential risks new efficiencies might be found? The whole system becomes more resilient due to RM? But do Risks in themselves offer opportunities? Anyone got...

  • Risk Management isn't static- as the project progresses risks change likelihood, and levels of unpredictability and threat change. Communicating these through dynamic documentation to the whole team and persistently updating can be useful.

  • Yes. Its about balancing the Cost Time Quality triangle Jerry showed us. If you want to compress time, you need to change cost and/or quality. The 3 are interdependent.

  • Rather like a large extended family members are being born and declining throughout the life cycle. Its a mistake to think of the whole team being born and dying at the same time. To keep the analogy going, some people are born merely to manage the deaths of others.

  • So I'm assuming no-one wants to pay a PM to go through the Concept phase and finally announce its not viable; so I guess much work can be done beforehand with feasibility studies, research etc.

  • I'm guessing handover and closure need to be well specified so there is agreement with the client, otherwise the PM could find themselves exploited and over delivering!

  • Waterfall: inexorable movement through phases of a lifecycle. No feedback loops in this model.

  • The Map is not the Territory!
    The Plan is there as a direction, but will change when the rubber hits the road! "Events dear boy, events" as Macmillan apocryphally said. Plans need updating and interrogating as you progress, as no-one can predict stakeholders or client behaviour that well....

  • need to temper it for each Stakeholder; I often overexplain to stakeholders just looking for reassurance, thinking I'm being helpful, but I'm often swamping them. Also, what ways do groups of stakeholders EXPECT their news? Email, or physical appointments? Pinterest at their leisure or Powerpoint in the office?

  • These days everyone's a PM in some way as modern workflows demand it. Also the sheer amount of govt outsourcing. Also thanks to social media business models we have a complaint culture that means competing stakeholders can amplify their concerns that PMs ignore at their peril.

  • So multiple projects don't necessarily fit into a programme. There needs to be some strategic cohesion.

  • We've heard about how projects are finite and how you 'work your way out of a job' but sometimes (eg in StartUp culture) the thing that was a project becomes permanent. A one-off event becomes a regular monthly success, or a new service moves into a permanent phase. Sometimes PMs become founders.

  • Hmm, can Project Management be collective? We tend to talk about the role in the singular. Like in the UK we have a Prime Minister, but their role is not to manage- that's (supposedly) the Cabinet. Although over the decades more power has been given to the role, its still not equivalent to the executive power the collective have. Can you have pairs of PMs, or...

  • @JohnGibson "failure to communicate tasks and expectations effectively" - this is rife in the Universities I've worked in- grand projects underperform due to a a prevalent insistence to still use email to communicate quite complex projects to multiple stakeholders. This seems to be a cultural thing, as PM tools are widely available.

  • Alright, I'm going to say i have an issue with the Alternative definition ("Projects have a specific and unique task that is aimed at meeting a specific need or purpose") as it depends what you measure as success. As an example would the 'meeting a specific need' in an education project around the creation of a new textbook be measured in the physical object...

  • The definition of a project can be honed for different industries- a creative project needs to often wrestle with levels of ambiguity and sometimes deliberately not give the clients what they think they want. Also in some cases the client (say a commisioner of an opera or play, or a film company) may want their own expectations confounded, to create that...

  • To be a little analytical:
    APM's definition denotes "a desired outcome", whilst PMI talks of outputting "a unique product or service" I think APM plays down uniqueness which I agree with, as its possible to unknowingly create something thats been done before. I think PMI maybe could refer to the experiential economy in their definition- and include "unique...

  • In the case of some spheres of like the Client and Project manager are the same person. This misses out much about learning a skill to understand the client's wishes that they may not be able to articulate well. Natural miscommunication can lead to much frustration and negotiation that you just don't experience when Client and PM are the same person...

  • Saint John Walker made a comment

    I work in teaching and the creative industries, and everything is a project. My career is a project, the act of making anything is a project when it is not about pure repetition. If it ceases to be about a unique output or a unique context, then I guess its not a project but a procedure.

  • @UnaM As Higher Education isn't compulsory but a choice made by the applicant, I think there's been the assumption that entrants are motivated and self-aware enough to direct their attention to the studies they chose, but we probably underestimate the other pressures young people have (family expectations, status, path of least resistance etc) that inform...

  • The course doesnt stop here. Looking forward to a lot of reading.

  • Interesting courses, but I think i'll take a leaf out of the neuroscience handbook and do some Spaced Practice- go off and have a holiday before I sign up...

  • Whilst this course was STEM-facing, I probably wasn't alone as a teacher of Art who got a lot out of it. As such I wanted to ask about the Neuroscience of creativity. Does neuroscience say anything about maximising the brain's ability to be creative? Are there any counterintuitive or unexpected strategies that work?

  • Lots of material yet to read in this growing area. Learning about Learning can be very dry but thanks to Professor Paul Howard-Jones (University of Bristol) and Professor Tim Jay (Sheffield Hallam University), Karen Hornby and Rachel Jackson for putting it together in a relaxed pace with plenty of room to breathe!

  • Learning and education are two different things. Learning is the curiosity instinct, channeled via attention. Teaching tries to accelerate and codify learning. Resilience or Grit are protection when things are difficult.

    We're still only at the beginning of understanding learning through neuroscience and cognitive psychology, but we are not a static...

  • Would Arts students at HE level be motivated to study more effectively by Recognition of Employability digital badges awarded within their degree course?
    Or would it devalue and distract from their degree award?
    This needs to start with research into their motives for going on an Arts degree anyway...

  • Wow, not sure how I missed NFER before. I've been keen to do more work on digital badges and microcredentials to recognise specific learning at HE level, and this might be a good 'nudge'.

  • >>>Find one project that you would find useful for your own practice and in the discussion below say why.

    The Spaced Learning Research from Hallam and QUB. I was especially intrigued by the statement "The neuroscience literature supports the use of shorter spaces between learning (of around ten minutes), and the cognitive psychology literature supports...