Robert’s Rules of Order – Bringing Order to Chaos

Henry Robert was born in 1887 in South Carolina. His father, a minister who was opposed to slavery, moved the family to Ohio where Henry was raised.

Henry graduated 4th in his class from West Point and became a military engineer. During the Civil War, he helped design defenses for northern cities and ports. Later in his career, he was instrumental in engineering work. It was a poor performance in another setting that led to his legacy and his name being famous in our society today.

Henry was asked to lead a church meeting in Massachusetts that ended in a disaster. He decided that there needed to be written procedures for how such meetings were conducted. The problem was that America had people and citizenry from many nationalities meeting traditions. There was no standard for how meetings were to be conducted.

Robert set about to develop those procedures. Given his military background, he would have been expected to call on military practices as a guide. But that was not what was needed. He wanted procedures that could work in all types of assemblies.

In 1876, he created and published a book called Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberation Assemblies, shortened to Robert’s Rules of Order. As the book became used in meetings, Henry began to make adaptations based on the feedback he was given. He published four editions of the book during his lifetime.

Robert’s Rules remain widely used today. Some organizations have added, modified, or deleted rules as they thought necessary. But the rules remain the standard for the conduct of formal meetings.

Many beginnings arise from failures. People with growth mindsets see those failures as opportunities for a better way. Clearly, Harry Robert had such a growth mindset.

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“Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of liberty.”
– Henry Robert

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