The Release Train Engineer (RTE) has a crucial role in an enterprise with copious responsibilities. Often considered a “jack of all trades,” the RTE’s responsibilities vary but are all connected. Per the Scaled Agile Framework website, “the Release Train Engineer is a servant leader and ART coach who facilitates ART events and processes and supports teams in delivering value…they escalate impediments, manage risk, and help ensure value delivery and relentless improvement” amongst other things. With this description and the varying daily tasks, RTEs often find themselves pulled in several directions. Even with coaching teams and stakeholders on best practices and ways of working to avoid certain pitfalls, RTEs sometimes also find themselves having a growing backlog that becomes the infamous queue that we all advise our teams against, falling into the trap of starting and not finishing work, or even attempting to tackle topics that are bigger than ideal.
As with everything around us, there is always more than one thing to do; many objectives and tasks run in parallel. There are many stakeholders to satisfy and the next PI Planning to prepare. While the RTE is busy focusing on the five primary types of activities of Improving Relentlessly, Facilitating PI Planning, Optimizing Flow, Supporting PI Execution, and Coaching the ART, who is supporting the RTE? Though the RTE has many responsibilities, the RTE cannot succeed as a “lone wolf.” One responsibility of RTEs that is not always at the forefront of our minds is being able to ask for help.
There is a saying: “it takes a village to…” An RTE must also rely on the village to aid in their success. Through connecting with others, training, coaching, and being transparent and visible, the “village” can better support and advocate for the RTE and profit from the RTE’s guidance. It doesn’t happen quickly or easily, and it is not one-directional. RTEs can facilitate ways of working that create an environment where support and collaboration thrive and become bi-directional.
Two steps to start getting the help you need:
“Tribal Unity” by Em Campbell-Pretty notes that “successful tribe leaders need to participate in the change they are leading, and leaders can create connections with the people in their tribe by spending time at the Gemba.” As a prerequisite, the leaders should also know their tribe/village – the people they work with – the stakeholders. Just like all the leaders of the ART, the RTE provides and receives support from the “tribe” or “village” or community.