Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mr Roberts' Rules

In writing a memorial eulogy for a woman in our church who was for some years, our parliamentarian, I was recalled to this statement, from Mr. Roberts himself, about his purpose in writing his rules.

1. That the majority prevail.
2. That the minority be heard.
3. That the absent be protected.

My father introduced me to this statement of purpose early in my career, when I was impatient with the arcane lore of Roberts rules, and how it could be used, inadvertently or not, to manipulate a group. It quieted me right down. I remain in favor of a simpler set of rules, but when anyone suggests a new meeting procedure, I mentally run it through Roberts' filter. Will the majority prevail? (there are a surprising number of ways to run meeting in which this is not the outcome). Weill the minority get their chance to be heard? Will the absent be protected from stealth agendas or attempts to manipulate the vote by wearing out the membership?

If I were writing, I'd add another rule, and that is, "Will the rule of law be honored?" That means everything from the law of the state to the bylaws of the group. Mr. Roberts probably took that for granted, but in these days, it needs to be said aloud.

Thanks, Meg Prince, parliamentarian to the Middle Rio Grande Valley, for caring about process. May you rest in peace.

1 comment:

Scott Wells said...

A small quibble, not Roberts but Robert.

I've thought a lot about him lately, not only because of the points you made and my own college days in a debating society where Major Robert's rules were carefully held, but because my employer is moving offices -- indeed, it's my responsibility to make the move -- and we'll be housed where he once lived!