Jump to content
The Official RONR Q & A Forums

The importance of Parliamentary Procedure


Recommended Posts

I was wondering if any parlimentarians and/or people here experiences with RONR could give any insight on the importance of following parliamentary procedure, what you have found it offers, etc.

Like what you might say to a new board, just starting out about using RONR

Not sure if that is off topic of not.

 

Any thoughts, explanations, stories to illustrate its worth etc. are welcome.

Link to post
Share on other sites

While it varies with the audience, my most common "pitch" is that properly-used parliamentary procedure is a way to go home. Organizations exist to do things other than meetings - bowling tournaments, win elections, fight fires, etc. Yet they spend hours at meetings because they do not use a procedure that maximizes efficiency. Parliamentary procedure can help with that - it can lead to focused decision-making and discussions, keep things on track, and get you home at a reasonable hour.

Then I move on to rights - in particular, the right of the majority to make decisions, but only after the minority has its right to be heard (unless accelerated by a 2/3 vote), and only when those decisions do not infringe the rights of absentees or a minority too small to protect itself, and finally, with respect for the right of the organization itself to stability, which allows it to achieve its purpose.

I joined an organization in 2007 with only a tangential relationship to RONR. We met monthly, and, to be honest, we weren't doing much, and there wasn't much to talk about, yet our meetings ran well over the 2 hours allotted - we would meet at 7, and the library closed at 9, so we'd move to a coffee shop and continue for another hour or so. Two of us, having gained experience with RONR from a national convention, started pushing the use of parliamentary procedure at meetings. Suddenly, our meetings were an hour long, and we were getting more done - and we made better decisions, leading to more success in our operations.

Another example: I joined another organization in, I think, 2013. The meetings also ran quite long, but I chose not to speak up at the time. Eventually, I saw the chair tell a member that there was no such thing as a motion to postpone indefinitely, and decided to get involved by talking about RONR outside of meetings. I became the "member parliamentarian," then was elected secretary. I started attaching, to the same email as the draft minutes, short discussions of relevant parliamentary issues, with a focus on efficiency. I purchased the yellow cards to give out at meetings, as well as copies of You, The Member. I held office hours where members could ask how to achieve parliamentary goals, how to make the motions they wanted to make, etc. I met with the chair before each meeting to go over the rules regarding the things I thought were likely. I was routinely ignored. This one didn't work out as well - the chair decided, at a fundraiser (where members had signed up to work various shifts) to walk around, hand-pick a number of people equal to a "quorum" and hold a meeting on-the-spot, without notice, that authorized the expenditure of thousands of dollars. Members asked me if that was right, I told them it wasn't, a member raised a point of order that the expenditures were not properly authorized, but the organization upheld the chair's ruling that they were. I gave notice that I was resigning as parliamentarian because I could not advise an organization that did not care for rules that protect, in this case, the majority. (The quorum number was quite low, so only a small minority was involved in the decision.)

A third thing I push on is the nature of an organization - this ties into the rights discussion. The nature if that we wind up with common property, bought with pooled money. Sometimes, we have other resources, such as tax funding, sometimes not. But the fact is, we need to make decisions that respect our stewardship over our resources. Parliamentary procedure is a way to respect everyone's opinion while making efficient decisions.

Edited by Joshua Katz
Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's my opening paragraphs when talking to a workshop of interested newbies...

Why use “Parliamentary Procedure” (sometimes AKA “Robert’s Rules” or “RONR”) at all?

It is fair play and common sense codified.  It supports and balances the (sometimes conflicting) rights of the organization, of the members present, of the members absent, of the majority to decide, of the minority to be heard, etc.  It is a set of “good behavior in meetings” rules – like an etiquette book.  Also it’s a good set of “tools” to use to run a meeting efficiently and fairly.  It also has a very long history – it works.

Further, it allows you to get what you want out of a meeting.  If you are a member, what you want would be to have your proposal(s) given a fair hearing and acted upon.  Also, to get out in two hours or less.  If you are the chairman running the meeting, what you want would be to look good when it is all over – no “partisanship” accusations and plenty of kudos for being efficient and fair. Also to get out in two hours or less.

That is a tall order for a bunch of rules in a book that most people haven’t read, let alone own: Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), 11th Edition.  Fortunately, those rules, as noted, are what a fair-minded person would expect them to be (except for some intricate situations, which is why there are professional parliamentarians around and available – end of commercial).   The rulebook is, as noted, like a toolbox; it contain the formal procedures to do what you would want to do in a meeting.  A rather large toolbox, perhaps unfortunately.  But help is available...

"Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief" (RONRIB), Second Edition, is an excellent extraction from the full toolbox, describing the tools on the top shelf of the box. It is a splendid summary of all the rules you will really need in all but the most exceptional situations.

What follows, then, is mainly for the chairman, as it is his/her job to follow and enforce the rules during the meeting.  The chairman ought to know what is in that toolbox and how to use at least the tools on the top shelf, both for himself and to help the members.  We can begin with some really basic rules on the top of the top shelf.

And off to the races...
Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, thank you for the fantastic feedback.

I really appreciate your experience and willingness to share. I hope to become well-versed enough in Parliamentary Procedure to be able to introduce it as a set of tools that help keep things fair.

 

Do you have any feedback on the importance of members feeling "safe" in a meeting, meaning feeling confident that their rights to speak are protected, by the rules of decorum, and the limits of debate being upheld?

Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, jstackpo said:

Here's my opening paragraphs when talking to a workshop of interested newbies...

Why use “Parliamentary Procedure” (sometimes AKA “Robert’s Rules” or “RONR”) at all?

 

It is fair play and common sense codified.  It supports and balances the (sometimes conflicting) rights of the organization, of the members present, of the members absent, of the majority to decide, of the minority to be heard, etc.  It is a set of “good behavior in meetings” rules – like an etiquette book.  Also it’s a good set of “tools” to use to run a meeting efficiently and fairly.  It also has a very long history – it works.

 

Further, it allows you to get what you want out of a meeting.  If you are a member, what you want would be to have your proposal(s) given a fair hearing and acted upon.  Also, to get out in two hours or less.  If you are the chairman running the meeting, what you want would be to look good when it is all over – no “partisanship” accusations and plenty of kudos for being efficient and fair. Also to get out in two hours or less.

 

That is a tall order for a bunch of rules in a book that most people haven’t read, let alone own: Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), 11th Edition.  Fortunately, those rules, as noted, are what a fair-minded person would expect them to be (except for some intricate situations, which is why there are professional parliamentarians around and available – end of commercial).   The rulebook is, as noted, like a toolbox; it contain the formal procedures to do what you would want to do in a meeting.  A rather large toolbox, perhaps unfortunately.  But help is available...

 

"Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief" (RONRIB), Second Edition, is an excellent extraction from the full toolbox, describing the tools on the top shelf of the box. It is a splendid summary of all the rules you will really need in all but the most exceptional situations.

 

What follows, then, is mainly for the chairman, as it is his/her job to follow and enforce the rules during the meeting.  The chairman ought to know what is in that toolbox and how to use at least the tools on the top shelf, both for himself and to help the members.  We can begin with some really basic rules on the top of the top shelf.

 

 

And off to the races...

Thank you so much! RONRIB is something I am refrshing myself on, and I too feel it is a set of tools that help things move along productively, and also help keep things fair and consistent. I feel it is an essential part of a deliberative assembly. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
41 minutes ago, Nosey said:

Do you have any feedback on the importance of members feeling "safe" in a meeting, meaning feeling confident that their rights to speak are protected, by the rules of decorum, and the limits of debate being upheld?

Yes, this is what I meant by the discussion of rights. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

Yes, this is what I meant by the discussion of rights. 

Ok, thank you.

Do you have any experiences you might share about times when  rules of decorum were broken, and how it affected the situation?

If there was a solution, etc.

Spoken in anonymous terms, of course.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just referred to this topic today.  These are not my words, but words of a well-resepected parliamentarian.

Quote

Why use Parliamentary Procedure

Assures courtesy to all.

Only one thing is considered at a time.

The rights of the minority are preserved.

The will of the majority prevail.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Only a few. I was at a town meeting where a committee presented a report and recommendation (with which I strongly disagreed, by the way). The first speaker in opposition proceeded to berate the committee, accuse every committee member of self-dealing, and so on. The room arrangement was odd - speakers had to go to the microphone, but it was placed so that they were addressing the chair but not the assembly. He had positioned himself in front of the microphone, so the only way for me to get to the microphone was to come up behind him. The chair was hearing impaired, so trying to raise a point of order from my seat wouldn't have worked. So I walked up and raised a point of order. He turned and shouted in my face, then later threatened me and said "if you ever walk up behind me again, I'll punch you." I responded that the Chief of Police was listening (who was also First Selectman, and my campaign buddy). That ended the matter pretty quickly. The chair ruled my point of order well-taken, and he stopped speaking because he had nothing to say other than insults.

Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

Only a few. I was at a town meeting where a committee presented a report and recommendation (with which I strongly disagreed, by the way). The first speaker in opposition proceeded to berate the committee, accuse every committee member of self-dealing, and so on. The room arrangement was odd - speakers had to go to the microphone, but it was placed so that they were addressing the chair but not the assembly. He had positioned himself in front of the microphone, so the only way for me to get to the microphone was to come up behind him. The chair was hearing impaired, so trying to raise a point of order from my seat wouldn't have worked. So I walked up and raised a point of order. He turned and shouted in my face, then later threatened me and said "if you ever walk up behind me again, I'll punch you." I responded that the Chief of Police was listening (who was also First Selectman, and my campaign buddy). That ended the matter pretty quickly. The chair ruled my point of order well-taken, and he stopped speaking because he had nothing to say other than insults.

Wow...exciting stuff, glad it didn’t go to violence!

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

When your state convention is fed by some three hundred county and district conventions, you expect a few bad cases every biennium.  While I never had the privilege to serve on the credentials committee at that level, I did occasionally observe.

The common pattern is that in some small county, they conduct their conventions with little or no concern for the rules.  The county chairman does most of the work, day in and day out, and they and a few friends go to state every year.  Then one year, a group of newcomers gets excited about the process, and tries to get involved.  Often, they get abused and steam rolled without any idea what happened.  But they complain and start asking around.  Often, they don't get answers in time to actually appeal to the state convention.  But when they do, the credentials committee's minimal response is generally to bar the chairman and officers of the convention from the state convention.  If the new group is trained, they will raise points of order at the convention, and announce a rump convention at the end.  This rump convention almost always prevails at the state convention--and the people who thought they were delegates just wasted $500 each.

 

General Roberts talked about the fundamental duty of the majority to hear the minority out, and then for the minority to cheerfully support the majority's decision until they can reverse it.  The point is that properly followed parliamentary procedure allows for an organization to peacefully move towards its goals.  Without it, divisions fester and threaten the very existence of the organization.  With regard to the above, occassionally entire county parties go out of existence for a time because of anger over abuses.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Nathan Zook said:

When your state convention is fed by some three hundred county and district conventions, you expect a few bad cases every biennium.  While I never had the privilege to serve on the credentials committee at that level, I did occasionally observe.

The common pattern is that in some small county, they conduct their conventions with little or no concern for the rules.  The county chairman does most of the work, day in and day out, and they and a few friends go to state every year.  Then one year, a group of newcomers gets excited about the process, and tries to get involved.  Often, they get abused and steam rolled without any idea what happened.  But they complain and start asking around.  Often, they don't get answers in time to actually appeal to the state convention.  But when they do, the credentials committee's minimal response is generally to bar the chairman and officers of the convention from the state convention.  If the new group is trained, they will raise points of order at the convention, and announce a rump convention at the end.  This rump convention almost always prevails at the state convention--and the people who thought they were delegates just wasted $500 each.

 

General Roberts talked about the fundamental duty of the majority to hear the minority out, and then for the minority to cheerfully support the majority's decision until they can reverse it.  The point is that properly followed parliamentary procedure allows for an organization to peacefully move towards its goals.  Without it, divisions fester and threaten the very existence of the organization.  With regard to the above, occassionally entire county parties go out of existence for a time because of anger over abuses.

I can totally see where that’s possible. You’re going into areas of thinking and knowledge wholly unknown to me, and it makes me want to learn!

Thank you for sharing, I’m loving hearing about these experiences.

Since this is a public forum, if I wanted to share this info with others, do you think it would be ok if I shared some of these experiences with my colleagues?

I’d like them to start (possibly) being curious about RONR.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/2/2019 at 7:33 PM, Nosey said:

I was wondering if any parlimentarians and/or people here experiences with RONR could give any insight on the importance of following parliamentary procedure, what you have found it offers, etc.

Like what you might say to a new board, just starting out about using RONR

I think Thomas Jefferson said it very well in the following quote in his Manual of Parliamentary Practice:

" It is much more material that that there should be a rule to go by, than what that rule is; that there may be a uniformity of proceeding in business, not subject to the caprice of the Speaker, or captiousness of the members."

The reference to "the caprice of the Speaker"  is a reference to the presiding officer... the Speaker of the House, in this case.... not to the person speaking in debate.

Edited by Richard Brown
Corrected the title of Jefferson's manual
Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

I think Thomas Jefferson said it very well in the following quote in his Manual of Parliamentary Practice:

" It is much more material that that there should be a rule to go by, than what that rule is; that there may be a uniformity of proceeding in business, not subject to the caprice of the Speaker, or captiousness of the members."

The reference to "the caprice of the Speaker"  is a reference to the presiding officer... the Speaker of the House, in this case.... not to the person speaking in debate.

An excellent reference; thank you, @Richard Brown!  This was, in-part, what transpired in the conversation I referred to in my earlier post on this topic - referencing why we use parliamentary procedure.  The group (committee members) were displeased (to say it mildly) there were so many rules to follow (in our organization, which follows Robert's Rules of Order).

Edited by Tapestry
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/4/2019 at 2:35 PM, Daniel H. Honemann said:

"Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty. "
—HENRY M. ROBERT 

And the women and children have been known to cause their fair amount of trouble, too.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...