Chapter 1 — Why Troublemakers Are Imperative to Progress

Troublemaker Coach
4 min readDec 22, 2020

Time and time again, in multiple different books and quotes throughout history you’ll see the Troublemaker mentioned as imperative for progress.

Two prime examples are…

In the book Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, author and former designer at Google Jake Knapp says this about Troublemakers;

“Bring the troublemaker.

Before every sprint we ask; who might cause trouble if he or she isn’t included? We don’t mean people that just argue for the sake of arguing. We mean that smart person who has strong contrary opinions, and whom you might be slightly uncomfortable with including in your sprints.

Troublemakers see problems differently from everyone else. Their crazy idea about solving the problem might just be right. And even if it’s wrong, the presence of a dissenting view will push everyone else to do better work.”

If you go back to somewhere between 1856–1950, George Bernard Shaw said;

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.

Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Image thanks to Baher Khairy on Unsplash

Herein lies one of the biggest problems in the construction industry.

Now this is going to bruise a lot of egos, but it’s the truth and…

All progress begins with the truth.” — Dan Sullivan

Project and construction managers are usually {I’m going to say 90% of the time} the reasonable man that adapts to the constraints placed on them.

That’s fine, you need that on a project.

But you also need the Troublemaker to do his thing and kick the goals by getting work done safely, and keeping the project on track.

Trouble is, what the Troublemaker does can sometimes be unorthodox.

So it usually frightens the shit out of the conformist project/construction manager, who wants to squash anything that looks even remotely like trouble.

Let me give you an example.

Back in 2013, I was given the task of running a gas compressor rebuild project.

The project manager for the client was a reasonable man, but he quickly worked out I was the Troublemaker that was going to make his project happen safely, on time, and under budget.

Long story short he let me do my thing, and my team delivered the results he wanted under extremely trying circumstances.

Another project manager noticed the results I produced on that project, and by chance we ended up working on a project together a few years later.

I want you to do what you did on that compressor build project for me, he said.

I said no worries, this is what I need to do.

Long story short, he couldn’t give me the freedom to do what I needed to do to deliver the result he wanted.

He wanted my Troublemaker results {from the previous project}, but he wanted me to do it with his conformist process.

It was never going to work, and it failed miserably.

Don’t get me wrong — it was my fault just as much as his, I’m no angel either.

When I talk about Troublemakers being hard work at times, I can make people’s lives extremely difficult when I want to.

But I’ve had to learn to temper that as I’ve gotten older.

Here’s another bitter pill for the conformist to swallow.

The progress on your project, or lack of it, directly reflects the way you coach and mentor your Troublemakers.

If you’re not getting the progress you want, it’s because you’re stifling the Troublemakers and having constant battles attempting to force them to toe the line.

Don’t for a minute think I’m making Troublemakers out to be angels. They can be primadonnas and fucking hard work at times.

But that’s the price you pay for them making you look like a rock star with the progress they make.

Here’s the bitter pill if you’re a Troublemaker.

The downfall of a Troublemaker is their abruptness, and at times their air of self-importance.

Think back to the start of the book and the first conversation we had.

“You fuck off back to your office, and I’ll come and get you if I need you.”

If Muff had used that line on a conformist supervisor, that whole conversation could have gone south very quickly.

And the whole project would have suffered because of it, as he was exactly the person required to fill the position he was in and drive progress.

Muff, like most Troublemakers, shoots straight from the hip with no thought of consequence of who he’s firing at.

This straight-to-the-point approach often gets them branded as negative, when all they really want to do is get the job moving.

Troublemakers will not conform to a world constrained by red-tape political correctness, and it’s a massive mistake to try and make them.

If you’ve read this far, I’m tipping that you’re picking up what I’m putting down here and you’re keen to hear more about how you either work with or become an even more effective Troublemaker.

So in chapter two we’re going to look at my favourite tool for getting the best out of Troublemakers.

It’s called SCRUM.

If you’re conformist, this is the magical tool that’ll give you a system to track and measure the progress your Troublemakers are making.

If you’re a Troublemaker, this is the system you need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how invaluable the trouble you cause is.

So, let’s get into it.

If you haven’t read the inro to Troublemaker yet, you can do that here.

If you want to know more about The Fifo Experiment {Troublemaker is 1 of 4 projects} you can learn more about it here.



Troublemaker Coach

Back when I went to School the Teachers had a name for me… Troublemaker. Turns out though out in the real world being a Troublemaker is my biggest advantage!