There are several common myths about parliamentary rules that tempt assemblies into ‘just having meetings.’ Below, we discuss four common myths about why groups shouldn’t use parliamentary procedure, as a way of explaining why they should.
Using Robert’s Rules is inefficient. We should make decisions faster.
The ‘fastest’ way to make decisions is to empower the President to do it, and let your organization be run by an annually elected dictator. That, however, is not a good idea.
Robert’s Rules of Order are actually quite efficient in the contexts of what kind of a process they’re intended to facilitate. They keep discussion focused on the decision that needs to be made, they encourage people to prepare in advance, and they ensure a balance between the speed of decisions and the openness of discussion. Open discussion helps an organization be more transparent and helps eliminate mistakes. It also lessens the chances of members becoming bitter with decisions they disagree with because they could see how and why the decision was made, and had the chance to participate themselves.
Robert’s Rules generates unnecessary paperwork.
Actually, Robert’s Rules generates necessary paperwork; namely, agendas and minutes. That paperwork creates institutional memory for the organization, and allows people to participate in decision-making. It also creates a record that ensures that decisions are enforceable. Plus, using motions to make decisions makes it easier people to understand the outcomes of discussions that they were not present at.
This particular section of Robert’s Rules doesn’t make any sense. We should just get rid of it.
Parliamentary law has been evolving since the 1500s, with contributions from some of the greatest thinkers of our time. The rules make sense, even if they don’t make sense to you... yet. Four hundred years’ worth of world leaders from Thomas Jefferson to Winston Churchill have been using Robert’s Rules or its predecessors. It might need some tweaking to work for your organization, but don’t undertake to rewrite the rules from scratch without understanding them first, or without the help of a distinguished statesman.
Robert’s Rules are too complicated. Isn’t it simpler to just have a meeting without all this rules business?
Sometimes, but probably not for your group. Think of a Council as if it is football team. A small group of people getting together to play football probably don’t need a lot of rules. Then again, they probably don’t have enough people to play a proper game. A large group of people playing football needs lots of rules so that everyone understands what’s going on, no one can cheat without other people noticing, and the chances of someone getting hurt are minimized. A Council is the same way.
The decisions that are made by Council are at least as complex as the decisions made by a football team in the field, and are just as likely to cause tempers to flare. You need rules so that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on and are equipped to participate effectively, so that no one can ‘cheat’ or pull the discussion really off-track, and so that people don’t get bullied or unfairly silenced. Meeting without rules is a recipe for chaos... and that won’t simplify things one bit.