The purpose of using Robert’s Rules of Order or some other rules of parliamentary procedure is to allow a group to make decisions, allow all members of the group an opportunity to speak, and to do so in an orderly and controlled fashion.
If your group, regardless of size, has a process for meeting, talking, and making decisions that works for you, then it is probably OK, regardless of how closely it follows Robert’s Rules. His rules were written for big groups, in which there may be contention and disagreement. If your group does not have contention and disagreement, the rules are too formal to use.
The key to an orderly meeting really is the control that the presiding officer (usually the president) exercises in running the meeting and keeping things on track. In small groups (under 8 or 10) a president can dictate how fast and fairly the meeting runs. The president need not ask for motions, but can either make motions themselves (if they think a vote is necessary), or can simply state “if there are no objections, then we will (state action to be taken)”. If the rest of the group sits silent, then there are no objections, and the decision is made. It still needs to be recorded in the minutes. This would be a motion by consensus.
When a group gets out of control (several people talking at once, people arguing back and forth, people talking about several things at a time, etc.) the President can tell everyone to stop talking, and then picks who gets to speak and in what order. The president is “recognizing” each individual and they get a chance to speak without interruption. The president then recognizes each person until all have spoken. When everyone has had a chance to speak on a single topic, then a vote can be taken.
If you are following the Rules, no topic is supposed to be discussed unless a motion (a decision to be made) is before the group. If one person makes a motion, and there is no “second” then the topic is not discussed. If it is seconded, then the group has discussion, after which the motion made is voted on. There are rules for amending and substituting motions to change it during discussion. But this formality is rarely required in meetings for homeowner associations. As long as the group understands the motion (the decision) being made they can vote. If most of the group votes the same, no formal process for counting the votes is necessary (as with a motion passed by the president “if there are no objections”). If you have a contentious decision, you should record the vote with written ballots or a roll call vote (where each member present is asked to state their vote for the record).
You can certainly spend the money and time reading Roberts Rules of Order, but what is more important is finding a process for your group that works for you to have orderly meetings, where all voices can be expressed (but not dominate) and decisions for the group can be made. There are several sources on line with more detail on this matter.
If you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you in our future posts!