Proposal | reboot11
All those in favour, signify by saying “Action”
Revisiting Roberts Rules of Order
Roberts Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, or Robert’s Rules of Order, was published 133 years ago.
It either remains the best way to run a meeting, or is a dated holdover from an earlier time in drastic need of revision. I’m not sure which.
But I’m wondering if somewhere outside the new-age “speaker gets a Koosh Ball and we need to reach consensus” and the old-school “he must rise after the floor has been yielded, and address the presiding officer by his official title” there might be a more interesting and effective ways of conducting business, reaching decisions, and getting things done.
I mean this session to be participatory rather than theoretical: I’d like to experiment with some alternatives by running a round of rapid-fire Bizarro mini-meetings using some different approaches to conducting business to explore the possibilities.
Over the past year I’ve dramatically ramped up the amount of time I spend on volunteer boards and committees. From a standing start I’ve somehow ended up the vice-president of this, the president of this, treasurer of this and a director of this. Add in various sub-committees and side-projects and it seems sometime like I spend my life in a constant Robert’s Rules of Order-mediated state (“all those in favour of going to bed, signify by saying ‘Aye’”).
Along the way I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. Some observations:
- Most people don’t like going to meetings.
- Most organizations practice a cut-down version of Robert’s Rules that’s based more on a vague notion of how it works than a close reading of the text.
- Watching a meeting run by a true Parliamentarian, with Robert’s Rules in full flourish, is a sight to behold; but true Parliamentarians are in short supply.
- Many of the standard practices of groups – keeping and approving minutes, for example – seem to be done more for tradition’s sake than with an explicit, useful purpose.
- Most groups never talk about group process; it’s considered a waste of precious time.
- When groups do talk about group process, sometimes small tweaks can make dramatic improvements in the ability of the group to get things done.
- There are alternative meeting-running systems, like Open Space, but to introduce these systems into something as close-to-the-ground as a home and school meeting would be akin to saying “okay, now we're all going to take off our clothes and drop some peyote!”
Rather than dwelling on this through PowerPoint, I’d like to dive right in and try out some improvised-on-the-spot (or improvised-in-advance for the deliberative among you) alternatives.