Beyond Robert's

24 Sep 2019  John  2 mins read.

Many decision-making groups use Roberts Rules of Order to help their organizations run more smoothly.

The basics are as follows:

“A member of a deliberative assembly has the right to attend meetings, make motions, speak in debate, and vote. The process of making a decision is done through a motion, which is a proposal to do something. The formal steps in handling a motion are the making of a motion, having a second, stating the motion, having debate on the motion, putting the motion to a vote, and announcing the results of the vote. Action could be taken informally without going through these steps by using unanimous consent. When making a choice, the basic principle of decision is majority vote. In situations when more than majority vote is required, the requirement could include a two-thirds vote, previous notice, or a vote of a majority of the entire membership.”

To some these rules can seem a bit cumbersome and contrived, but they’ve stood the test of time and are a good starting point for any group decision-making process.

Roberts was updated in 2011 in part to deal with the increasing use of electronic meetings and communications. Technology has reduced the need for folks to assemble together at a specific time and in a specific place - and no doubt additional changes will be adopted as collaboration technologies improve.

The Achilles’ heel of Robert’s has always been having a debate on the motion. When motions are complex or controversial, debates can quickly devolve into circular arguments and polarized positions. Trules helps keep deliberations focussed on what’s neccessary to decide the motion.

Motions are subject to interpretation

Despite our best efforts, it’s almost inevitable that one or more members of the group will have questions or concerns about the statements that make up a motion. They may feel that the statement in unclear, or that it is misleading, or that it is inaccurate. We need efficient mechanisms to resolve these concerns as they are raised. Unresolve concerns about statements can fester and lead to deadlocked decisions.

People are pulled away from the deliberations

In an ideal world, the decision makers could focus on each motion until it has been resolved. This world is far from ideal. People have duties beyond deciding motions, and those duties often take precedence. When members return to the deliberation, they often reopen or rehash issues that had already been discussed and resolved. Sometimes revisiting and rehashing issues are inevitable, but often times the disruptions are the result of a returning member’s haste to “get back on the same page” with the other group members. We need efficient mechanisms for for summarizing the current state of the deliberations and for highlighting “what transpired” while a group member was absent.

  • Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash
John Reynolds
John Reynolds

John is the creator of Trules.