Board members are holding a meeting using parliamentary procedure.

Everything Boards Need to Know About Parliamentary Procedure (Part Two)

Welcome to another edition of All About It, the series where we take a closer look at the topics that fascinate us! In the second installment of our two-part deep dive on parliamentary procedure, we’ll take a closer look at the basic structure of parliamentary procedure and the role of parliamentarianism in the government and the corporate world. Let’s get started!

Parliamentary Procedure 101

Parliamentary procedure often involves the selection of a “parliamentary authority”. A parliamentary authority serves as a rulebook to which all members of a deliberative assembly have agreed to adhere. Robert’s Rules of Order is one of the most popular parliamentary authorities, but it’s not the only one. However, most parliamentary authorities include a few common themes. The most common among them is the use of the “motion”.

In a very small nutshell, a motion is a proposal to take a given action. We’re going to talk about how motions are used following Robert’s Rules of Order as a parliamentary authority. While there may be slight differences based on the authority used, Robert’s Rules provide some of the most widely-adopted guidelines for deliberation. Robert’s Rules divides motions into five broad categories:

  1. Main Motions: A main motion is used to bring a topic before the assembly for discussion. Main motions are made when no other motions are being discussed. It’s a way to transition to the next item of discussion.
  2. Subsidiary Motions: Subsidiary motions provide an assembly with different ways to handle a main motion such as postponing consideration or amending the motion.
  3. Privileged Motions: Privileged motions are considered urgent and can interrupt deliberation. This may include motioning to adjourn or recess the assembly.
  4. Incidental Motions: These motions are used largely under a specific set of circumstances or conditions. This is, more or less, the “other” or “miscellaneous” category.
  5. “Motions that bring a question again before the assembly”: Robert’s Rules may have dropped the ball on the category name, here, but this type of motion is used to present items or questions for discussion which had previously been dismissed.

This summary of motions doesn’t scratch the surface of the complexity and detail that exists for documenting parliamentary procedure. There are rules for everything. However, understanding the various categories into which motions are divided serves as a good starting point for understanding parliamentary procedure as a whole. Every topic brought before the assembly for deliberation is brought there by a motion. They are the driving force behind the deliberative process.


While Robert’s Rules of Order is the most common parliamentary authority in the United States, there are many other rulebooks to choose from. Most parliamentary authorities are based on Robert’s Rules of Order or a parliamentary system itself. Variations between parliamentary authorities can make one rulebook more suited for an organization than another. But selecting a parliamentary authority and drafting organizational bylaws isn’t easy.

To understand the ins and outs of parliamentary procedures, an organization may choose to hire a parliamentarian. Parliamentarians work, often in consultancy roles, to guide an organization through the drafting of their bylaws and advising them on parliamentary procedure as a whole. Consultants undergo a rigorous certification process, either becoming a Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP) or a Certified Professional Parliamentarian (CPP) depending on the association through which they earned their certification. Using a parliamentary procedure specialist can set boards up for success before during and after forming an organization.

This concludes the second half of our two-part deep dive on parliamentary procedure. We hope this installment of our series, All About It, has given you a deeper understanding of where the fundamental rules of deliberation come from and how they work. To learn more about Directorpoint and what we’re doing to help businesses make better decisions across the board, give us a call at (888) 492-7020 or schedule a demo of our world-class board management software.

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