CALL TO ORDER
By Garth J. Christie, MMC
Robert's Rules of Order is the most commonly used parliamentary procedure manual in the United States. It has been adopted by a wide range of organizations, including church groups, local governments, homeowners' associations, nonprofits, professional societies, school boards, trade unions, and others. Henry Robert, who would later retire form the Army as a Brigadier General, developed the procedural manual in 1976 by loosely modeling it after the rules of procedure for the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite its wide use, it is not completely universal.
For some groups, following Robert's Rules may be a hassle and they think that they don't need so much formality; however, these groups run a couple of risks. First, if the group has many new members, there is a tendency that it becomes autocratic. Unilateral decision-making is not always bad, and an inexperienced group can benefit from the Chair's guidance and leadership; but this style does not foster buy-in from the group's membership and the group does not benefit from an array of perspectives.
The other risk is that of anarchy and chaos there is no order. Everybody talks at the same time and nothing gets done or an outspoken individual or determined minority dominates a meeting and prevents progress. This is what happened to a friend of mine (not her real name) when she joined a church committee. If there was an agenda it only existed in the mind of the Chair. Discussions went all over the place. Meetings were painfully long, and issues that seemed to be resolved were rehashed at subsequent meetings. After a few months, my friend realized that her colleagues were merely happy to be away from their spouses for four or five hours and quit.
If the church committee followed the basics of Robert’s Rules the above situation would have been avoided. In addition to an advanced notice, an agenda is created and circulated. This means that all members know the topics that will be considered and the order in which they will be brought up. In addition, minutes are taken so there is a written record of the decisions made by the assembly. Other safeguards include the requirement of a “quorum” so that a determined minority cannot take over the business of the assembly and equal speaking rights afforded to all members of the group.
Also, consensus is not required which obviates the risk of the “tyranny of the minority.”
The Redford Unit of Parliamentarians is a group dedicated to the study, use, and promotion of Robert’s Rules of Order. We meet at Town Hall on the fourth Thursday of every month, except for holidays, at 10 a.m. We enjoy refreshments and socializing and take turns teaching each other. Our meetings adjourn around 11:30 a.m. We are welcoming new members who want to learn more about parliamentary procedure, enjoy refreshments, and socialize. I encourage you to have a little fun and make your group meetings more productive.
For more information contact me at 313-387-2755 or email@example.com