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MemberJanuary 22, 2022 at 4:39 pm
While I recognize the need for procedures that make decisions legally defensible, there are many problems with using Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. The most obvious is that condo owners and board members cannot be expected to know and follow the Rules (700 pages in the 12th edition) even simplified (200 pages in RONR “In Brief”) or by cheat sheets such as the ROR QuickStudy. An individual board can overcome some limits of RONR by drafting “special rules” as allowed in RONR or board procedures with the help of a parliamentarian. There are also alternatives to Robert’s Rules that are simpler to begin with, such as Democratic Rules of Order or Atwood’s Rules.
Issues of complexity aside, some have argued that the fundamental problem with these is that they are based in a British tradition of adversarial decision making. It is akin to position-based rather than interest-based negotiation in labour relations. Generally speaking, lawyers are trained in adversarial procedures and those are appropriate for situations where parties are at odds. Our parliaments are also adversarial except in rare circumstances when the parties find common cause. Experts in procedure may be limited in their perspectives compared, for example, to experts in community development. Other traditions use different meeting procedures to control who speaks and when, and how decisions are made.
One alternative is consensus building. A comparison between Robert’s Rules and consensus building is given by https://www.co-intelligence.org/I-comparisonRR-CC-DF.html, among others. Consensus building has been suggested to be appropriate for organizations such as HOAs, see https://cmp-hoa.com/files/An-Alternative-to-Robert-s-Rule-of-Order.pdf. The whole approach is described by https://www.consensusdecisionmaking.org/. Procedures have been developed so that decisions are made with control over issues such as levels of agreement, blocking, and consent.
My experience on many committees, boards, and councils is that Robert’s Rules only achieve its goals when participants are knowledgeable and skilled in its use, and the situation requires the formality and control. Even then it can be abused to limit dialogue and disadvantage minority voices. My experience is that smaller groups can achieve better outcomes with a minimum of rules of procedure until the time comes to record a decision.
I also believe that condos are a community as well as a corporate business. Robert’s Rules are one way of doing business, but are not conducive to building community. I hope we can have a discussion on practical rules that do both for general meetings and boards.