Survival Tips on
Robert's Rules of Order
Network of Rules
Every rule affects all the other rules in an association.
Every rule in a association is affected by all the other rules.
No rule is isolated, independent, or autonomous.
It is all a web, a network, a spaghetti bowl of rules, a hierarchy of governance.
This is a Hierarchy of Governance because rules that I have named higher on the list will always bump and supersede the rules that I have named below them. For example, the Federal laws supersede the State laws which supersede the Constitution which supersedes the Bylaws, etc. Notice how low Robert's Rules is on this list. That is because the role of Robert's is to complement the rules that the association has chosen to customize to its own needs. If the association does not customize a parliamentary procedure in its rules, it has decided to adhere to Robert's Rules of Order.
- Federal Statutes: Every association must comply with all the federal laws. No association is immune to these rules.
- State Laws: Most organization are directly affected by at least a few State Laws such as the Education Code, the Corporations Code, the Open Meeting Laws, Public Records Act, etc.
- City and Local Statutes: Whether brilliant or odd, all cities and counties have unique rules that affect most organizations in one way or another. (My home town still requires that every locomotive must be escorted by a man carrying a lantern and riding a horse.)
- Constitution: Many organizations have a document that holds those rules which should not be altered except by the entire membership or constituency.
- Bylaws: Almost without exception, all organization have a document that holds the rules that a board may amend with a notice at one meeting and a vote at the next meeting.
- Rules of Order (Robert's Rules): All organizations have a document or a book that includes all the rules not found in any of the documents listed above. Of course, an organization could try to run a productive meeting without such a document, just like any organization could try to conduct business with Monopoly money instead of real money.
- Standing Rules: These are rules that sound like policy documents explaining the mechanics of doing business, but typically can be amended a great deal easier than the Bylaws.
- Customs: An organization could also have valid unwritten rules that do not conflict with any of the rules listed above. Most organizations have these without being aware of their unwritten status.
I have found that the greatest problems in handling business do not come from the complexities of Robert's Parliamentary Process, but rather from the association's Constitution, Bylaws, and the State Laws.
The only time Robert's Rules is a problem is when a poorly informed member tries to convince the uninformed members that a rule exists which conflicts with the actions of the association. Actually, this poorly informed member is typically trying to show off his control of buzz words at the expense of the business success of parliamentary concepts.
Robert's Rules is intended to facilitate the handling of business in spite of this complex network of governance. The only time Robert's Rules hinders the handling of business is when show-offs hijack the meeting.