Taking responsibility for our actions

The return of stewardship


Advances in Project Management


By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School

United Kingdom



Do our actions matter? Can we, or the actions that we take, make a difference beyond our own sphere and influence? Should we therefore consider the global impact of our intentions?

We are often far too occupied with our own interests, preferences, priorities, issues, concerns and tribulations to observe the wider implications and impacts beyond our immediate context. Yet, it increasingly appears that our private little arrangements and engagements can still make a difference to the wider world beyond our immediate and obvious concerns. This article aims to encourage a more responsible and considerate mindset.

Love unchained

Love padlocks, or lovelocks, are padlocks attached to a bridge, fence, gate, post or monument by couples to symbolise and attest their everlasting love. Couples typically inscribe their names or initials onto the lock before affixing it to a public monument or gateway and throwing away the key into a river or waterway to symbolise the unbreakable bond that has been sealed through such action.

For the individuals involved lovelocks are a harmless phenomenon demonstrating an aspiration for a life-long, unbreakable commitment to their partnership. Indeed, one could argue that lovelocks are significantly less obtrusive than carving, daubing or plastering the names onto a bridge, monument, ancient wall, prehistoric ruin, subterranean cave or a natural beauty spot.

Lovelocks appear to have proliferated in many countries and regions since the early 2000s, particularly adorning bridges in the centre of main cities. In Rome, the attaching of lovelocks to the Ponte Milvio bridge was documented in a popular book, I Want You by Federico Moccia published in 2006 and further immortalised when it was adapted into a film in 2007.

Nonetheless, many people associate lovelocks with the Pont des Arts bridge in the centre of Paris. Pont des Arts, also known as Passerelle des Arts, is a popular pedestrian bridge which crosses the River Seine, connecting the Institut de France to the central square of the Palais Du Louvre. It was the first iron bridge built in France, which opened in 1804 as a toll footbridge. In 1991, UNESCO listed the entire Parisian riverfront between the Eiffel Tower and the Ile Saint Louis, including the Pont des Arts, as a World Heritage Site. Since 2008 lovelocks have been appearing on the Pont des Arts bridge. By 2012, the number of locks covering the bridge had become overwhelming with locks being placed upon other locks. In February 2014, Le Monde estimated that there were over 700,000 locks on the bridge. With little free space remaining on the bridge, lovelocks have since spread to at least 11 other Seine bridges, the footbridges on the Canal St Martin, and more recently, to fences and posts in parks and to public monuments all over the city, including the site of the Eiffel Tower.

So, does a personal gesture and intimate bond sealed between two lovers by affixing a lovelock to the side of a bridge impact others?

Well, so it would appear as many little gestures can add up to significant unintended consequences. As a result of the continuous addition of individual locks, the historic bridge at Pont des Arts historic started experiencing new problems. The city of Paris would later remove 1 million locks attached to the Pont des Arts, with a total weight in excess of 45 tonnes. In May 2014 the Paris Mayoress, Anne Hidalgo concerned about the safety of the historic bridge and the wider impact on the city had tasked her First Deputy Mayor with finding alternatives to lovelocks in Paris. A month later, in June 2014, the parapet on the bridge collapsed under the combined weight of the lovelocks (BBC, 2014). Under the added weight, one side of the railing simply crumpled into the water. The railing was replaced and notices were left requesting that people stop the lovelock habit. Still, the love tokens started re-appearing, ultimately forcing the city to replace the railings with protective glass panels in search of an alternative material to which lovelocks could not be attached.

The original bridge had featured in many films and TV shows and had been enjoyed by millions of tourists and locals over the years. It had survived aerial bombardments during the first and second world wars as well as multiple collisions with boats (although it had been replaced after a barge crashed into it in 1977); however, over one million individual acts of demonstrative love overwhelmed the structure and its built-in safety margins and tolerances, causing the side to collapse.


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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower and other publishers in the Routledge family.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower/Routledge Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.  Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. 

How to cite this paper: Dalcher, D. (2019). Taking responsibility for our actions: The return of stewardship, PM World Journal, Volume VIII, Issue VII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/pmwj84-Aug2019-Dalcher-taking-responsibility-for-our-actions.pdf



About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Author, Professor, Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School, UK



Darren Dalcher, Ph.D., HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SMIEEE, SFHEA is Professor in Strategic Project Management at Lancaster University, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.

Professor Dalcher has written over 200 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, a leading international software engineering journal. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Routledge and of the companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, A Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the British Academy of Management. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He sits on numerous senior research and professional boards, including The PMI Academic Member Advisory Group, the APM Research Advisory Group, the CMI Academic Council and the APM Group Ethics and Standards Governance Board.  He is the Academic Advisor and Consulting Editor for the next APM Body of Knowledge. Prof Dalcher is an academic advisor for the PM World Journal.  He is the academic advisor and consulting editor for the forthcoming edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. He can be contacted at d.dalcher@lancaster.ac.uk.

To view other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.