Learning to Love
Using Robert's Rules

I have developed an intuitive method for teaching parliamentary procedure.

Why does it matter?  Read the introduction to my book.

Most approaches to teaching or explaining parliamentary procedure follow the hierarchy of motions laid out in Robert's Rules of Order (10th edition).  

It is good, clear, strong stuff -- and more than 600 pages long.  To judge from actual behavior in meetings, not much of what's been explained sticks in the mind of the average voting member of an organization.  Even one-page summaries do not lead to real comprehension and a higher level of participation among members.  Why does it matter?  Read the intro.

The approach that I offer  is based on a simple, precisely accurate parallel between actions in a meeting and a group trip.  An excerpt from the book:

Each action in a meeting is like a trip undertaken by a group of adults. The analogy is precise because both share three elements: 1) a group intends 2) to proceed together 3) toward a goal. Think about an actual road trip with, say, six people in a car. Assuming they have an adequate vehicle and road system and equal rights to determine where and how they go, a satisfactory trip for the group depends on four essentials:

  • motion toward a destination;
  • possibility for changing the route or the destination or stopping the trip altogether;
  • attention to time constraints, including eating & sleeping, if needed;
  • methods for handling confusion and wrong turns.

The reasons that might move you to speak up to fellow passengers about a trip have parallels in the motives for speaking up in a board meeting or a legislative assembly. In a decision-making meeting, having "an adequate vehicle and road system" corresponds with [among other things] a functional meeting space . . . and bylaws . . .  Given these, parliamentary procedure contemplates actions of four types:

  • Ideas for what to do or say, called "main motions," which come to the floor when nothing else is under discussion;
  • Proposals to change the ideas presently under discussion
  • Attention to how much time actions should take
  • Methods for clearing up confusion and correcting errors

To help participants experience increasing competency with the rules, the workshop combines this intuitive approach to the need that a rule serves with interactive practice in role-play situations.

Both the workshop and the book aim to help the learner master the  two dozen or so parliamentary rules of order which, in my experience, can make the most difference for most people in the situations that come up most often in meetings.  Each participant in the workshop receives a copy of the book.

Email me at shp@shphelps.com for further information.


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Stephen H. Phelps 2009