Agile captains

This blog post will tell you about how we define the role of agile captain, something that I know stands out a bit after discussing with others in the agile community.

In Scrum, three roles are defined:

  • Scrum Master – Leads the team and work with removing impediments to get the work forward.
  • Product OwnerReceives, handles and prioritize the requirements for a product.
  • Team members – Persons that are part of the team that shall be cross-functional and self-organizing.

We are in a transition phase from Scrum into Kanban and what roles shall you have then? Looking in the Kanban literature, it only states:

Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities and titles” (taken from Wikipedia)

It feels awkward to call the team leaders for Scrum Masters when we are not using Scrum. We looked to the world of sports for inspiration.


In most team sports, the concept of captains are present. Like in ice hockey for example. The captains are players with extra leadership qualities that leads the others on the ice. They interact with other ”stakeholders”, like the coaches (to discuss game strategies) and the referees (to discuss decisions that are being made). The coaches are not playing the game themselves, they supervise and make adjustments (enforcing different game tactics, shifting players, etc.) trying to win the game.

Agile captains

For me, an agile coach it not necessarily part of the team. This is how we define agile captains:

  • ”C” – The head captain. A servant team leader with some extra responsibilities.
  • ”A” – The assistant captain. Also a servant team leader with a few extra responsibilities. However we don’t really make any difference in status between ”C” and ”A”, they are equal.

One of them lead the daily standup meeting. Why have two? Maybe the captain is sick or working from home one day, then it is more convenient to have the assistant stepping in. It’s also good to be two persons, to have a natural part to discuss with before making a decision. The captains also work as a interface from the team to other stakeholders. Comparing to Scrum the role of captain has similarities to the ”Scrum Master”-role.


  • Redundancy – If one captain is not present, the other one can step in and for example conduct the daily standup meeting.
  • Sharing work load – An example, each team needs to be represented on a high-level planning meeting. Then the captains can decide between each other, given the tasks they have at the moment, who shall participate.
  • Better decisions – Not one single person being responsible for a decision. There is always another person (the other captain) to discuss with, before making any type of decision. Two brains are better than one!


  • No one solely responsible for the team. Since we are not giving the ”C” captain more status, we don’t have one single person responsible for the team. It could be a problem, leading to a ”blame game” between the captains, but we have not experienced this.


The role of agile captain is working really well for us, what do you call your team leaders in Kanban?

All the best,
 Tomas from TheAgileist


    1. Hello Joshua and thanks for your comment. First and foremost it is the name, as I said it felt akward to call them Scrum Master when we are not doing Scrum. For me an Agile captain is a servant leader.


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