There is one catfish per team.


Catfish is a technique for developing and managing team lead substitutes.


A catfish (or a substitute team lead) is used to introduce competition in teams and ensure that team leads are motivated to produce excellent results while having a team that supports him/her. The term stems from an old legend, which goes that “introducing catfish into a barrel of other fish added an element of fear, which kept the other fish moving in order not to me eaten”.


The catfish’s function is to be an alternative team lead, if the team collectively vote out the current team lead. The role of the catfish is likely to be sought after by individuals who are ambitious and wish to rise quickly in responsibilities.

The catfish should either be selected by the team or inserted by management. Once selected as a catfish, the associate works as a part of the team, but is not supervised/evaluated by the team lead. Instead, the catfish reports to functional units e.g. HR. The catfish should be the most capable and qualified in the team and hold capabilities that will allow him/her to easily become a team lead.



Reinventing Giants by Bill Fischer, Umberto Lago & Fang Liu