Practical Parliamentary Procedure
Practical Parliamentary Procedure (PPP) is an accelerated introduction to parliamentary procedure and practice, with specific emphasis on “Robert’s Rules of Order,” which is the version of PP that prevails in most (but not all) American institutions. It will run for seven weeks, likely beginning in late April. SIGN UP HERE if you want to be notified when finalized location and time details are available.
Why learn Parliamentary Procedure?
Parliamentary procedure is both radically underestimated, and completely misunderstood.
This is partly because of its name (is it just for parliaments??), but also because of its cultural imprint. Most people have not experienced properly deployed procedure, and what they have seen is often a bastardized cargo-cult of excellent operational procedure.1 They don’t know what they’re missing—if they did, they’d be knocking down the door to get it.
Properly, parliamentary procedure (parli, parli pro, or PP) is designed to fit the organization that uses it. It is not a dusty set of arbitrary rules that get in your way—if that’s how you’ve experienced it, you’ve had bad leaders. PP is a living set of social technologies2 that determines whether meetings are slogs from the seventh circle, or smooth executions of business; whether your organization’s governing structure attracts talent, or repels it; and whether you feel empowered to influence your organization, or feel burdened by it.
Fundamentally, PP is often the dividing line between the ossified status quo and blossoming transformation.3
Practical Parliamentary Procedure (PPP) is an accelerated introduction into parliamentary procedure and practice, with specific emphasis on Robert’s Rules of Order, which is the version of parli that prevails in most (but not all) American institutions.
Who is this class for?
If you want to understand how your organization or governmental body works (or, more likely, is supposed to work), this is for you.
If you want your meetings to be efficient, effective, transparent, and fair, this is for you.
If you want to be empowered to do things, this is for you.
If you are a member of a New York entity that has designated Robert’s Rules as your parliamentary authority, this is for you.
If you sit on a governing board of any kind, this is for you.
What will you learn?
PPP will be taught as an interactive seminar that alternates between instruction, discussion, and procedural practice.
What we cover will be partially determined by the progress and interest of the class, but the basics are:
What is parliamentary procedure? Why use it?
How does parliamentary procedure interact with the law? (Bylaws, city charter, state statute, and more)
What can you do with parliamentary procedure? What should others do? What should your executive leadership do?4 What are the rights of members versus the chair?
How to have excellent meetings.
What’s a motion? How many kinds are there, who can propose them, how are they considered, and what can they do?
How does parliamentary procedure interact with the administrative back-end of an organization?
Various other topics, including but not limited to: virtual versus in-person meetings, minutes, resolutions, and more.
How to do parliamentary procedure. We will be practicing!
What isn’t covered in this class? Where do you go after the last class?
Homework, attendance, and exam
You should expect to dedicate at least 1-2 hours a week to class homework and independent study.
Ideally you will attend every class, but absences happen; you still need to do class homework if you miss class. If you think you’ll miss more than two classes, I’d wait to enroll in the next session. Since part of the class is running mock meetings, it’s important for everyone to attend as much as possible.
There will also be a final exam with two parts. Part 1 will be done collectively, and you will run several short meetings under observation. Part 2 will be a written component that you will complete individually.
Although it will be advisable to study for the final exam, you should feel prepared to take it if you fully participate in class along the way.
Administrivia and class materials
When: (these details to be updated when available)
Class will meet once a week for 90 minutes.
Class will run for seven weeks, with the seventh week being your final exam.
Office hours, extra meetings, and make-up classes will be added according to necessity and enrollee interest.
A location in New York City convenient for enrollees, to be determined.
Students must purchase Robert’s Rules of Order in Brief, which is $8 on Amazon.
During class 1 we will discuss the following supplemental materials that are worth buying. You can get them now, get them never, or wait and see:
Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition (this is the full Robert’s Rules)
Tell me if you want to take this!
I’m still finalizing the meeting time and location of this class, but will likely have those within the next two weeks.
The class will be priced on a sliding scale of $0-500, to be paid according to enrollee self-defined ability to pay.
SIGN UP HERE if you want to be notified when finalized location and time details are available.
If you can’t attend this session, I will be offering it again if there is sufficient interest.
From the physicist Richard Feynman’s 1974 Caltech commencement address: “I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call Cargo Cult Science. In the South Seas there is a Cargo Cult of people. During [WWII] they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.
Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea Islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in Cargo Cult Science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly.”
From Samo Burja’s Great Founder Theory manuscript, “Social Technology,” p. 22: “It’s important to note that all except the simplest social technologies are designed. Though many of our crucial social technologies seem like natural parts of reality today, this was not always so. At some point they required intentional construction and adoption. Many social technologies we take for granted, including the very idea of having such critical systems as currency, law, and government, were born from concerted human agency. It is for this reason that we call it social technology, rather than social “norms”, or take a broader anthropological or philosophical approach. Much like material technology, social technology is designed, adopted, and scaled. It is proceduralized and documentable.
Social technology is a tool that directs people to knowingly or unknowingly take certain actions, and in so doing it has the ability to shape an extremely broad range of human action. It can be used to reduce coordination costs between people, causing them to work together more effectively towards a goal, but it can also be used to restrict collaboration and action.”
I’ve written about the consequences of a civilization that slowly loses its advanced social technology (like parliamentary procedure, the use of which was far more prevalent in civic society a century ago) in Atlantis on the Hudson.