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Tackle RTE Exhaustion

What you'll learn

  • How to focus on ART-Level Events and Artifacts, not just individual team or task-level problems.
  • Why it's crucial to empower Scrum Masters and Team Coaches to take care of team-level challenges themselves.
  • How to delegate and trust your team to handle their roles so that you can focus on the ART-level events.

This is “Tackle RTE Exhaustion: 6 real-life experiences with possible ways out. 

You may know this feeling. You’ve just become an RTE; You’re excited and full of energy. It’s a great opportunity for you to make an impact and it’s you that is responsible for the development of your train and the teams in it. And most importantly, you know SAFe works. 

Of course you want to do a great job. You want the teams and the train to perform smoothly. No pressure, except the one you put on yourself.  

As an RTE you are the most experienced person in the ART - you are the SAFe expert. Maybe you went through an Implementing SAFe Training; and so for, you’re a change agent too. You are THE Person to go to if someone has questions about SAFe, Scrum or Kanban.  

What happens is that of course people will come to you and ask for your advice, opinion and your help.  

“Can you help me with my retrospective? Or can you do it for me; So, I can learn?” This could be one ask of a scrum master. Or, “my Iteration reviews don’t really work, can you sit in and give me a feedback?” 

Here just pause for a moment. If you feel like being in this situation. Reflect. What is your responsibility?  

Your role is not to do everything concerning the ART, your job is that everything evolves. This means also, that other people grow in their job. 

For instance, take care that your Scrum Masters and Team Coaches grow. You and your Scrum Masters, Team Coaches  are one virtual team. Together you rock the train. So don’t do their job because you are faster or maybe better… Let Scrum Masters and Team Coaches do team level jobs. If they struggle, coach them! With that I mean, real coaching not consulting. Ask questions. Let them give themselves homework. Ask how the experiments they have chosen worked out. Go only down to team level events when severe conflicts arise. Let Scrum Masters help other scrum masters. Let Team Coaches help other Team Coaches. 

Let's be concrete. If your scrum master says, “I have a problem with the retro.” Your job is now not to do the retro yourself but coach and empower the Scrum Master to do it on his/her own. So ask, “What exactly is the problem? Do you have an idea what you can try to solve the problem yourself?” Is it safe enough to try this idea? Maybe a colleague can be asked to observe what the Scrum Master is doing and give feedback. Let the network of Scrum Masters and Team Coaches grow, by solving this problem. Let the Scrum Master come back and give you feedback how it worked? 

Remember you're like Yoda: You're wise, experienced and know so much. That’s why people come to you! You hear complains like the PO saying that “Iteration Planning is a waste of time, and that he/she won’t go next time!” 

Your way out? Focus on your responsibilities: You are responsible for the ART level events and Artefacts. And also coaching People on the ART level. Scrum Masters and Team Coaches should be able to do the same job on Team level. This includes coaching POs in their role and explaining the importance of the events, artefacts and roles. Ask the PO to solve issues together with the scrum master and only come to you if they are not able to solve their problems directly. You are the escalation path and not everyone’s problem solver. 

But because you are experienced: you see things not going well where others don’t. For Instance: This stand up shouldn’t be conducted like a status report -- I have to check on the daily stand up, “This one scrum master is not fit enough” or “The burn down chart looks suspicious” 

So you start to engage yourself more and more, you start doing things on team level. You coach POs, SMs and Stakeholders, You prepare PI planning. You moderate Sync-Meetings and Preparation/Refinement meetings. And at the end of the day when everyone goes home, you still need more time to finish your own work. 

Doing this for a longer time means: destroying yourself.

Your way out: Again, you as the RTE and your Scrum Masters and Team Coaches are one virtual team, you steer the train process and people development together. Let your scrum masters and Team Coaches grow. Next to coaching this virtual team concentrate on the ART-level, like PI Planning, PI preparation, PO-Sync, Coach Sync, System Demo, ART-Level dependencies and shared services, Flow of the ARTs Kanban. That’s enough for one person. 

Go only down if there is a huge problem that needs your skills and authority. Otherwise let the scrum masters and Team Coaches help each other 

So, remember you coach Product Management, System Architect, Business Owners (of course together with the LACE). Coaching POs and the rest of the agile teams is the job of Scrum Masters and Team Coaches.

Let’s summarize everything! The take away is: Focus on ART-Level Events and Artifacts. Coach SMs and TCs, so they can take care on Team-level challenges. You and your SMs and TCs are a virtual team -> Delegate delegate delegate 

I’m Niko Kaintantzis,  SPCT and Systemic Coach with KEGON Switzerland and I’m happy that invited me and gave me this platform to talk about this important topic with you.

About the course

The role of an RTE in managing matters related to the ART and SAFe Transformation is demanding, leaving them with little opportunity to take a break. Therefore, prioritizing their well-being is crucial to prevent overworking and potential burnout.




Beginner / Intermediate



Last Updated

April 3, 2023

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Peter Pedross

CEO & Founder PEDCO AG, Chief Methodologist Applied SAFe

Creator of the product Applied SAFe. Started to program for money at the age of 14. Ex-professional sportsman with a passion for software and a knack in engineering. 30+ years working experience with 50+ publications. SAFe SPC since 2011, Agile (XP) since 1999. Happy father and married to a wonderful woman.

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Ian J Franks

SAFe® 5 Program Consultant & RTE

Ian has a deep knowledge of Scrum, Kanban and Scaled Agile, and 30 years’ experience in international IT Transformation Programs. He is a successful PO, SM & RTE and as a Consultant/Trainer he coaches his clients develop a strong Agile Mindset that delivers real change and measurable improvements.


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