Sunday, April 22, 2012

Looking Past Robert's Rules of Orders

I'm researching for a project on why parliamentary procedures are used for organizations.  My research has led me to many resources including the school of thought that Robert's Rules are not the best thing going for organizations in today's society.

One person wrote a detailed book titled Breaking Robert's Rules: The New Way to Run Meetings, Build Consensus, and Get Results.

Now, I have a hard time reading criticisms of Robert's. I was smitten with parliamentary procedures over 40 years ago as a young country hick in 4-H. Knowing how the rules worked empowered me.  For a skinny boy with a soft voice that was a big deal; it led to leadership positions in 4-H. I would imagine senators in my college's student government often wished I wasn't there in meetings.  I held my own and then some at college model united nations meetings against people from much larger universities who thought they knew it all and mistakenly dismissed me in their rush to be recognized.

But that was one of the main points in this book written against the continuation of Robert's Rules for today's society--a society more connected than ever but in different ways beyond the 19th century imagination. The point was that Robert's puts too much power into the hands of the most skilled with procedures or with process expertise.  The rules do not lend a supportive hand to allow a level amount of contributions from many different types of communications.

Alas, Robert's Rules may not necessarily be for every deliberative organization or community association in the 21st century.

The premise of the book is that organizations and associations should come to an agreement for action based on consensus instead of a motion that happened to obtain a majority vote.  The book goes into detail how to change the cultural perception that Robert's is not the only way to do business, covers different scenarios within a group using concensus action, and provides a framework for formal organizations.

This was an eye-opener for me. Instead of having, for example, a PTA meeting filled with motions and seconds and debate, this new framework would have a PTA meeting with proposals from many, a live Twitter feed for those not there, and creating temporary subgroups to investigate and bring back alternatives or supporting information.  Instead of empowering the few who know the ins and outs of procedures, this new framework empowers all who are in attendance physically or electronically.

Despite not being a defined black and white hardlined procedure type of a person, I'm a little to set in my ways with Robert's.  It is all I know.  But I can envision the younger generation of Americans who see things in less black and white than I do, and more in different shades of greys, could likely embrace this type of framework.  Robert's may indeed be entering its last century of dominance over business proceedings.