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Oct 16, 2023

Part I | The 5 Evil Tasks of an RTE

Ah, Halloween season is upon us, and the ghosts, ghouls, and Agile Release Trains (ARTs) are all getting ready for a spook-tacular time. But watch out, because lurking in the shadows is a sinister figure known as #RTEvil. Who is #RTEvil, you ask? Well, it's the Release Train Engineer (RTE) who has taken a dark turn, embracing a nefarious set of tasks that can send even the bravest of Agile teams running for cover. In this bone-chilling article, we'll delve into the "5 Evil Tasks of an RTE" and discover the lessons we can learn from their malevolent ways. So, grab your flashlights and let's embark on this terrifying journey through the world of Agile gone awry.

1. The Wicked Whip-cracker

Every Agile Release Train needs someone to keep it on track, but the #RTEvil takes this responsibility to a whole new level. Instead of being a guiding light, they become the wicked whip-cracker, constantly pressuring teams to meet unrealistic deadlines. The #RTEvil believes in the "crush them with work" approach, driving teams to burnout faster than a candle in a jack-o'-lantern.

Lesson: An RTE's role is to facilitate and support, not to be a taskmaster. A successful RTE empowers teams to make decisions and respects their capacity.

Practical Advice: Encourage time management practices such as prioritization, backlog refinement, and effective task planning. Help teams break down work into manageable chunks and set realistic goals

2. The Sinister Scoper

Picture this: You're working diligently on your Agile project, and suddenly, the #RTEvil swoops in, armed with a never-ending list of scope changes. They thrive on adding new features, often without considering the team's capacity or the impact on the overall project. The Sinister Scoper can turn your Agile release into a never-ending horror story.

Lesson: While the RTE isn't responsible for prioritization, they play a crucial role in helping Product Management and System Architects scope and prioritize wisely. Encourage effective collaboration among these roles to avoid scope creep.

Practical Advice: Facilitate regular alignment and prioritization sessions involving Product Management, System Architects, and teams. Establish some criteria for accepting changes, ensuring they align with business goals.

3. The Diabolical Data Dumper

Data is essential for informed decision-making, but the #RTEvil takes data obsession to another level. They inundate teams with an avalanche of metrics, charts, and reports, drowning everyone in a sea of meaningless numbers. The Diabolical Data Dumper makes it impossible to see the forest for the trees.

Lesson: Focus on meaningful metrics that drive improvement, and remember that too much data can be as harmful as too little. Provide actionable insights rather than drowning teams in data.

Practical Advice: Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to your ART goals. Regularly review these KPIs with teams and use them to drive discussions on process improvements and adjustments.

4. The Phantom Facilitator

Facilitation is a core RTE responsibility, but the #RTEvil prefers to operate from the shadows. They hide behind email and spreadsheets, avoiding face-to-face interactions with teams. The Phantom Facilitator's communication style leaves everyone feeling ghosted and unsupported.

Lesson: Effective RTEs are active and visible facilitators who build relationships and foster collaboration.

Practical Advice: Schedule and lead regular meetings and ceremonies in a way that encourages active participation. Be present, approachable, and available for teams to address concerns, answer questions, and provide guidance.

5. The Malicious Micromanager

Last but not least, we have the Malicious Micromanager. This RTE can't resist meddling in every detail of the Agile release. They second-guess every decision, micromanage tasks, and undermine team autonomy. The result? A team that's demoralized and disempowered.

Lesson: Trust your teams to do their jobs, and remember that micromanagement is the fast track to turning your Agile Release Train into a ghost ship (or ghost train).

Practical Advice: Delegate responsibility and empower teams to make decisions within their domain. Use regular check-ins not for micromanagement but to offer support, help removing obstacles, and align on priorities.

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Written by Eduardo Alvim, SAFe Practice Consultant Trainer (SPCT)