Breaking Robert’s Rules

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Every day in communities across America hundreds of committees, boards, church groups, and social clubs hold meetings where they spend their time engaged in shouting matches and acrimonious debate. Whether they are aware of it or not, the procedures that most such groups rely on to reach decisions were first laid out as Robert’s Rules more than 150 years ago by an officer in the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers. Its arcane rituals of parliamentary procedure and majority rule usually produce a victorious majority and a very dissatisfied minority that expects to raise its concerns, again, at the next possible meeting.

Breaking Robert’s Rules clearly spells out how any group can work together effectively. After briefly explaining the problems created by Robert’s Rules, the guide outlines the five key steps toward consensus building, and addresses the specific problems that often get in the way of a group’s progress. Appendices include a basic one page “Handy Guide” that can be distributed at meetings and a case study demonstrating how the ideas presented in the book can also be applied in a corporate context.

Written in a non-technical and engaging style, and containing clear ideas and instructions that anyone can understand and use, this one-of-a-kind guide will prove an essential tool for any group desperate to find ways of making their meetings more effective. In addition, neighborhood
associations, ad hoc committees, social clubs, and other informal groups lacking a clear hierarchy will find solid advice on how to move forward without resorting to “majority rules” or bickering over who will take leadership positions. Bound to become a classic, Breaking Robert’s Rules will change the way you hold meetings forever, paving the way for efficiency, efficacy, and peaceful decision making.


Professor Lawrence Susskind is the Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at MIT and the director of the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program. He is one of the country’s most experienced public and environmental dispute mediators. He has served as court-appointed special master and as a mediator for neighborhood, municipal, state, and national agencies and organizations in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. Professor Susskind is also President of the Consensus Building Institute, a not-for-profit organization that provides mediation and dispute system design services to public and private clients worldwide, and is the Program on Negotiation’s Vice-Chair for Education.

Jeffrey L. Cruikshank is an experienced editor, the author of numerous books of interest to managers, and a published novelist. His first book, a collaboration with co-author Susskind, was Breaking the Impasse, published in 1987.

Breaking Robert’s Rules can be ordered through the Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse.

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