As I was thinking about what to write for this week's column, I thought back to a conversation I had with several high school students I was working with on board meeting procedures. In this meeting, these students had a lot of questions on how to preside over meetings where there seemed to be a lot of chaos and very little structure. I explained about Robert's Rules of Order and the use of Parliamentary Procedures. From my perspective, they seemed to soak up the information, didn't know much about them and wanted to use what they learned right away. This had me thinking about the meetings I attend and I realized the use of Robert's Rules of Order doesn't always happen and if they are used it is minimal and not always correctly.
Robert's Rules of Order were developed in the 1800's when people from different countries were brought together and had their own idea of parliamentary law. Robert's Rules of Order gave them common structure when they came together.
All boards and committees, for profit and not for profit use some form or variation of Robert's Rules in their meetings. I attend approximately 200 meetings a year on average and in most cases the Board Chairs conduct the meetings and motions are made on the issues at hand but little of Robert's Rules of Order are visible beyond that. Is it because we are getting complacent in our board work or is because we don't have the knowledge?
I believe we should do what we can to make meetings enjoyable and not boring. When I work with boards on board development and mention Robert's Rules of Order, I sometimes get this expression from people where their eyes glaze over and I can just imagine they are thinking "boring". I explain that using Parliamentary Procedures doesn't mean the meetings have to be boring. Using Robert's Rules creates a mutual understanding of the members on how the meetings are conducted. It is a respect for the process and respect for the members.
As a member, do you address the Board Chair when you want to make a comment? Are you familiar with making a motion in the correct manner and when and why a motion is needed? Some of these procedures do not fit with the organization you work with and it is the decision of your group whether to adopt Robert's Rules of Order. If you choose to adopt any or all of these rules, necessary bylaw changes may need to take place.
Becoming familiar with Parliamentary Procedures will only help you become more informed with your role as a board or committee member and it will ultimately give you more knowledge as you continue to work in your communities.
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