Does your club need to adopt formal rules of order on how your meetings should be conducted, such as RONR (Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised)? If you watch your government sessions on TV, you might wonder. In Canada, sessions of parliament are chaotic with members yelling out of turn and banging their desks. In South Korea, physical fights and brawls have been known to break out. Fortunately, you can put those images aside — governments tend to adopt their own rules of order and as counter-productive and disgusting as those may be, clubs can do better.
We’ll talk about Robert’s here because the advantage of RONR is that it has been around since 1876, it is comprehensive and, most importantly, ubiquitous. That is, your members are more likely to be running across Robert’s at any other business, charitable or other club meetings they attend. The question here, however, is does your club need to adopt rules of order or not?
The RONR In Brief suggests that you will see the “need for at least some formal control” when your membership number reaches even six. It continues, “When the gathering reaches a size of about 12 to 15 persons another threshold is crossed. At that point, the meeting becomes essentially ‘full scale,’ with a need for tighter, more formal, more carefully developed control. A certain paradox appears. In order to preserve its freedom to act, the body must impose regulation.” (Incidentally, if your club does decide to adopt Robert’s you will need the one copy of the complete RONR, the 700+ page version for reference, and two copies for the RONR In Brief, the only authorized concise version — one of these for your President, assuming he/she chairs your meetings, and one for your backup chair, usually the Vice-President.)
If your meetings do not follow formal rules of order, you don’t need a membership number to decide whether you should adopt them or not. The purpose of meetings are to get things done, i.e. to bring your group together to make decisions by voting on motions. There are some common reasons why these decisions are waylaid or don’t get done. Here are just a few:
- failure to appoint a chair or someone capable of acting as a moderator,
- no clear understanding by the chair on how simple motions are made, debated and passed,
- membership’s inability to make motions, to have them clarified and to have them modified as necessary,
- members indulging in discussions that are going no where,
- members talking simultaneously,
- members interrupting those who are speaking,
- members drifting off topic,
- certain members dominating discussion or talking endlessly,
- meetings going on forever (or at least beyond their allotted times),
- inabilities to even decide when and how a vote should be taken.
If your club isn’t using any rules of order and any two or three of these reasons are inhibiting the decision-making process in your club, consider adopting Robert’s or some other published set of rules. Failure to do so may cause your members to avoid attending your club’s meetings — poor organization, endless chatter, irrelevancies and bickering are poor motivators to attend. Make rules of order part of your parliamentary procedure (that’s the high faluting name for it when it includes your club’s local customs). They work. Just don’t do what the governments mentioned above have done — try and develop your own rules. Obviously, they don’t work that well for those governments and it has taken Robert’s almost 140 years and 11 editions to get its rules to where they are today. And, Marketing Options promises, all the reasons listed above can be addressed and resolved by Robert’s long before your meetings deteriorate into fisticuffs.