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10 Best Practices for Release Train Engineers



best practices for Release Train Engineer

As a release train engineer (RTE), there are many skills and competencies required to be effective in the role. Based on my experience, here are 10 best practices for Release Train Engineers looking to master the multifaceted responsibilities of the job.

10 best practices for Release Train Engineers


  1. Foster Teamwork and Collaboration

One of the most important skills effective RTEs need to cultivate is bringing teams together to foster alignment and collaboration across functions.

RTEs should strive to break down silos and connect people by facilitating active working sessions with shared goals. Bring together groups like developers, testers, product owners, and UX designers for insight sharing, solutioning, and planning.

Drive collaboration through activities like:

  • Joint requirement grooming sessions
  • Cross-functional design workshops
  • Brainstorming or ideation meetings
  • Retrospective analysis across teams
  • Multi-team planning exercises

Guide teams to identify intersections between their efforts and understand how they fit into the broader program goals.

Rather than operate as independent agents, encourage teams to actively assist and learn from each other. Build relationships through regular touchpoints between groups.

Effective RTEs act as collaboration conductors, not commanders. They build trust and connectivity between teams versus managing through rigid mandates.

Fostering high-performance teamwork generates better results than simply directing. RTEs should coach teams to collaborate versus work in isolation.

  1. Hone Active Listening Skills

Exemplary RTEs become masters at active listening in all their interactions. During meetings and discussions, they listen intently to understand all perspectives before asserting their own views.

RTEs should avoid immediately interjecting their own opinions when approached with issues. Instead, listen patiently and probe for details through thoughtful questioning.

Paraphrase key points made by others to show you have processed and understood. Seek clarification on areas where there is ambiguity.

Listen for what is not being said as much as what is being voiced. Pay attention to team cues beyond just words like energy levels, body language and emotions.

Honing listening skills also enables RTEs to read between the lines during conversations and uncover underlying root causes driving concerns. You listen to comprehend, not just respond.

Strong listeners create psychological safety on teams, demonstrating interest in all voices. They model deep focus on others before replying.

By developing patience and avoiding quick judgments, RTEs build trust and open communication. Allow others to speak freely and feel heard.

Mastering active listening transforms RTEs from reactive problem solvers into proactive collaborators. They earn team confidence through dedicated listening.

  1. Ask Insightful Questions

Expert RTEs complement strong listening skills by asking insightful, thoughtful questions. Their goal is to probe, uncover, and enlighten versus appear knowledgeable.

They ask open-ended questions that draw out people’s thoughts and guide them to think critically. For example:

  • What potential risks do you anticipate with this approach?
  • What have you considered as possible alternatives?
  • How could we make this idea better?
  • What is holding us back from implementing this?

RTEs inquire about root causes rather than just the outward symptoms of issues. They gently challenge assumptions by playing devil’s advocate.

They’ll ask clarifying questions on requirements, priorities, or processes to expose ambiguity early. Thoughtful questions help prevent downstream misalignment.

RTEs avoid always defaulting to their own solutions. Instead they probe with questions to illuminate possibilities and empower teams.

Insightful inquiring helps teams feel involved in solution finding versus just being directed. It unlocks breakthrough thinking.

Asking smart questions demonstrates the RTE’s deeper focus on collective understanding rather than just asserting expertise. It builds openness and trust.

  1. Communicate Proactively

Top RTEs maintain a continuous pulse on program status and plans. They communicate early, often, and transparently to keep stakeholders informed.

They share progress updates, highlight milestones achieved, and flag potential risks before they become critical. Proactive communication prevents surprises.

RTEs anticipate the information needs of program leadership, customers, and other business partners. They provide insights proactively versus waiting to be asked.

They overcommunicate major program changes, upcoming events, successes and failures. They broadcast wider when changes will impact other groups.

Proactive communicators give timely warnings if milestones are at risk of slipping. They allow time to course correct versus reporting issues at the last minute.

They translate technical jargon when communicating with non-technical stakeholders to ensure accessibility. They educate through clear language.

RTEs distill complex program details down into digestible executive summaries and convenient dashboards. They synthesize key takeaways.

Proactive communication requires foresight and preparation. RTEs think ahead to understand stakeholder needs and craft intentional, meaningful messaging.

By sharing information early, clearly, and exhaustively, they build a smooth flow of communication across the program.

  1. Drive Consensus with Diplomacy

When disagreements inevitably arise, skilled RTEs aim to broker consensus and win-win resolutions. They bring diplomacy to contentious discussions.

RTEs give ample time for all perspectives to be voiced, avoiding rushing to judgments. They identify areas of agreement first before tackling differences.

They reframe arguments to find common ground. RTEs highlight how varied views ultimately align towards the same goals, even if tactics differ.

They steer conversations with tact and impartiality. RTEs aim to educate on constraints versus force opinions. Savvy questioning helps guide teams to alignment.

When consensus stalls, they identify areas where compromise makes sense in order to progress. RTEs give a little to gain a lot.

They mediate respectfully when conflicts intensify. RTEs remain calm, isolate emotions from issues, and redirect with solutions.

Consensus building requires empathy, conflict resolution skills, and emotional intelligence. RTEs invest time to gain understanding before reacting.

Diplomatic RTEs can integrate divergent views into cohesive solutions. They synthesize the best ideas into plans all parties endorse.

With influenced grounded in credibility not authority, RTEs elicit voluntary buy-in versus begrudging compliance. They unite through adept facilitation.

  1. Resolve Issues Decisively

Despite best efforts, unexpected issues and impediments inevitably obstruct programs. When they arise, RTEs must resolve problems quickly and decisively.

They undertake root cause analysis to properly diagnose issues before prescribing solutions. RTEs dig deeper versus applying quick band-aids.

Once clear on the problem, they swiftly assemble relevant stakeholders to evaluate options. RTEs drive efficient decision making to select remedies.

They take ownership of driving resolution and removing blocking obstacles, rather than deferring or delegating to others. RTEs get directly involved in remediation.

They escalate appropriately when a problem is out of their scope to resolve. RTEs enlist the help of senior leaders or subject matter experts to address major deficits.

RTEs track progress on issue resolution closely. They follow through to ensure problems are closed out fully versus leaving loose ends.

Resolving decisively often means making tough calls under pressure. RTEs are willing to make unpopular decisions when consensus stalls.

They balance urgency with stakeholder consideration when problems require quick response. RTEs remain empathetic but results-focused.

When issues arise, teams turn to RTEs for swift and thorough resolution. Their ability to diagnose, decide, and drive change decisive

  1. Coach and Develop Teams

Beyond day-to-day management, exemplary RTEs actively coach and develop the talents of team members for growth.

They take a genuine interest in mentoring members and hold regular one-on-one sessions to provide feedback. RTEs get to know team strengths/weaknesses.

They provide opportunities for people to gain exposure to new projects to broaden skills. RTEs encourage teams to stretch beyond their comfort zone.

They delegate responsibilities to team members to foster leadership abilities, not just to lighten personal workload. RTEs entrust teams to rise up.

RTEs notice gaps in team capabilities and orchestrate appropriate training. They invest in sharpening skills and expanding expertise.

They guide newer members by sharing industry knowledge and best practices. RTEs take time to teach.

When mistakes happen, they coach individuals through constructive criticism focused on building competencies. RTEs make setbacks learning opportunities.

Great RTEs demonstrate interest in mentoring team members towards career growth, not just immediate project success. They unlock potential.

By developing talent and confidence within teams, RTEs cultivate momentum, engagement, and higher performance over time.

  1. Create Psychological Safety

Leading RTEs purposefully nurture psychological safety – an environment where people feel secure taking interpersonal risks and engaging openly.

They model vulnerability first by admitting mistakes or knowledge gaps. RTEs share stories of their own failures and lessons learned from them.

They actively listen without judgment when people voice concerns. RTEs make it safe to bring tough issues forward.

They never single out individuals. Feedback is given privately and constructively. Recognition is spread generously.

RTEs establish team ground rules that value diversity of thought. All ideas are welcomed. Disagreement is encouraged, never frowned upon.

They relentlessly reinforce that the team’s purpose is learning and advancement. Perfection is not demanded. Failing safely accelerates growth.

Psychological safety is cultivated daily through RTE behaviors – patience, curiosity, humility and inclusiveness. They lead through trust.

RTEs welcome pushback on their own ideas or methods. They evolve based on team feedback vs. ego.

By exemplifying openness, teams feel inspired to engage boldly, not fearfully. RTEs allow ingenuity to flourish.

  1. Promote Agile Values

Seasoned RTEs don’t just manage agile process, they live the essence of agile values in their leadership style and interactions.

They radiate the principles of the Agile Manifesto – valuing collaboration over hierarchy, responding to change over rigid plans, and frequent delivery over perfectionism.

RTEs model the values they want teams to adopt. They think in terms of empowering teams versus commanding them.

They reinforce key agile practices like transparency, inspection, and adaptation in all they do. RTEs reject outdated models of command-and-control leadership.

They encourage teams to self-organize and challenge assumptions freely. RTEs believe vitality comes from within teams, not imposed from above.

They focus on facilitating alignment versus micromanaging execution. RTEs enable versus control.

RTEs coach teams to collaborate across boundaries and think holistically about delivering customer value. They break down functional silos.

They create feedback loops, retrospectives and open critique so teams can continually improve. RTEs inspect and adapt.

True agile leaders imbue teams with autonomy, mastery and purpose. RTEs inspire engagement by living agile values daily.

  1. Celebrate Small Wins

Exceptional RTEs find reasons to recognize progress and celebrate successes frequently. They spotlight achievements large and small.

RTEs send teams notes of praise when milestones are met, no matter how modest they seem. Simple recognition motivates.

They highlight contributors who went above-and-beyond, solved gnarly problems, or delivered creative solutions. RTEs share stories of success.

During stand ups or team meetings, RTEs verbally praise small wins like finishing tough features, fixing persistent bugs, or receiving positive customer feedback.

They celebrate testing successes, infrastructure upgrades, automation gains and other enablers that may not be flashy but demonstrate progress.

RTEs advocate for teams to be recognized by company leaders for project results or excellence. They amplify accolades.

For major achievements, RTEs advocate for bigger rewards like team meals, recreational activities, or swag for pride.

They make celebration a natural part of the team rhythm – not something that only occurs annually. RTEs find reasons to cheer often.

Frequent positivity and recognition cultivates an energized culture. RTEs spotlight the meaning behind work, not just metrics.

Final Words

Release train engineers wear many hats and must hone a diverse set of competencies to shepherd teams effectively. From building trust and collaboration to removing impediments decisively, exemplary RTEs lead with purpose.

While every day brings new challenges, keeping practices like active listening, transparent communication, coaching mindset, and valuing small wins top of mind will serve RTEs well.

Success stems from how RTEs empower teams, not exert power over them. Keeping an open, learning mindset separates good RTEs from transformational ones.

By implementing these and other emerging best practices daily, RTEs can evolve from reactive problem solvers into proactive leaders and enablers.

The responsibilities are heavy but the rewards profound. Great RTEs draw energy by investing in the growth of their people and teams. They unlock potential.

With dedication to honing the technical, cultural, and collaborative facets of the role, RTEs can chart a course to mastery. As guides, they take the first steps of the journey before expecting teams to follow.

Become a Release Train Engineer by getting the RTE certification. The Certification is provided by Scaled Agile. Inc,. LeanWisdom is a Accredited Gold training Provider for Scaled Agile.