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The Rule of the Second Floor — and What We Can Do About It

Philip Rogers
Sep 5, 2018 · 2 min read

At the Agile 2018 conference, among the many topics I observed and have been thinking are these two things, which were inspired by Tim Ottinger and
Llewellyn Falco, respectively:

  • The Rule of the Second Floor
  • Better Lunches

The Rule of the Second Floor

The “Rule of the Second Floor” is the term that Vic Bonnaci uses in his Agile Coach’s Toolkit, in reference to the following statement by Tim Ottinger during Episode 15 of the Agile for Humans Podcast:

Nobody 2 levels above or below you in the organization really understands what you do for a living.

Here is my interpretation of the The Rule of the Second Floor: the reality in the majority of organizations of any significant size is that we often know less than we think we do about the work many of our colleagues do — even if they work on the same floor.

Taking that a step further, I would say we’re missing an opportunity when we do not take the time to set aside time to learn more about what is going on around us.

Better Lunches

During the same Lightning Talk session where I spoke about retrospective gamification, Llewellyn Falco spoke on the topic of “Better Lunches.”

There is one aspect in particular of Llewellyn’s talk that stuck with me which I want to emphasize here:

  • The importance of setting aside time to chat with people (ideally over lunch — and not in the office)

My Proposal — Getting Past the Rule of the Second Floor by Setting Aside Time to Chat with People We May Not Interact With Frequently

What I’m proposing is that we find ways to interact with people we typically do not work with frequently, so that we can learn more about the work that goes on in other parts of the organization.

There are a number of ways we could do this, by setting aside some time to meet over coffee/tea or over lunch, and share information such as:

  • What our typical day looks like
  • Who we generally interact with
  • Tools/techniques/processes that work well for us
  • What some of the challenges are that we often need to overcome
  • What we could potentially do to help each other overcome such challenges

I’ve smarted small by reaching out to about a dozen colleagues to see whether they might be interested in having such a conversation with me. I hope this approach may be of interest to others.

innovative agile techniques and practices

Some people try to draw a box and say "everything inside is Agile." This collection is for those who are willing to paint over and outside the lines.

Philip Rogers

Written by

I love to work with teams to help them improve. Most of my recent experiences are with teams using Lean/Agile approaches (variations on Scrum, Kanban, XP).

innovative agile techniques and practices

Some people try to draw a box and say "everything inside is Agile." This collection is for those who are willing to paint over and outside the lines.

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