IEEE Governance and Roberts’ Rules of Order

Last Updated on October 21, 2019 by


IEEE Governance and Roberts’ Rules of Order

IEEE Governance and Roberts’ Rules of Order:

 Within IEEE, actions that result in decisions at the Committee level are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order.  For a complete introduction to this topic, I recommend the book:

21st Century Robert’s Rules of Order” by Henry Martyn Robert

For a quick review of why Robert’s Rules are relevant to IEEE meetings, take a look at the brief article by James Slaughter on ‘Parliamentary Procedure’ at:


The IEEE, in the MGA Operations Manual mandates that the proper conduct of meetings: “Robert’s Rules of Order … shall be used to conduct business at meeting of the Committee.”


In addition to establishing a universally understood ‘bench mark, parliamentary procedure, which is known and understood by anyone engaging in formal social activities, the use of Robert’s Rules is particularly germane to teleconference meetings, when normal ‘face-to-face’ eye contact precludes the use of a ‘raised hand’ to indicate when the members wishes to ‘have the floor’. If the principles of Robert’s Rules are ignored in a teleconference setting, chaos quickly takes over, and effectively stalls meeting progress.


Working ‘Off-Line’:

The effective use of Robert’s Rules does not preclude alternative approaches actions and activities that can result in decisions reached ‘outside’ the committee meeting.  We normally refer to these as discussions conducted “off-line” between two, or more, members, in order to clarify each person’s understanding and position on a particular point.  Often these “off-line” meetings can result in effective problem solutions, or decisions that satisfy everyone’s requirements.


Once a decision is made “off-line” it needs to be brought to the full Committee, and given a complete “airing” to acquaint all the Committee members with the results of the “off-line” deliberations.  This normally happens when a Committee member brings the topic to the agenda, and presents the proposal, along with its supporting data, to the entire committee for discussion and a vote.


The sequence of actions that result in this are:

  • [Member]: Making the Motion: “Mr. Chairman, I move that (fill in the appropriate words)
  • [Chair]: “We have a motion on the floor to (restates the motion to ensure it is understood correctly, and to affirm the Secretary has recorded it accurately)
  • [Chair]: “Is there a Second to the motion?”
  • NOTE: A motion must receive a “Second” indicating support from another member.  If not, the motion fails.  (With “off-line) discussion, support is almost guaranteed from one of the members of the “off-line” group that achieved consensus in their discussions.)
  • [Chair]: (assuming a Second is received)  “We have a motion and a second.  Is there any discussion?
  • This action opens the “Floor” for questions from attendees who may not have been privy to the “off-line” discussion and would like to understand its full implications.  Responses to questions should come from the member who made the motion, or he/she can yield the floor to another to support, or speak against the motion.
  • Expect to hear discussion both “For” and “Against” any motion if it is sufficiently new or different than normal practice.
  • [Chair]: (Once it is clear that either a consensus among the members has been achieved, or that it is obvious that will not happen, the Chair will announce)  “I Call for the Vote”.
  • After the count is completed, the [Chair] will announce, either “The motion passes.” or “The motion fails.”

The results of the vote reflect the majority of thinking of the committee, and each member should abide by the results of that decision. 


Note: When the results of a vote go against the belief of the member, it is within the member’s power to develop more supporting data, hold additional “off-line” meetings, attempt to convince other members of the virtues of the motion, and finally return to the Committee, and request to once again place the topic on the next agenda.

However, simply placing the item on the agenda, and returning with no additional data or supporting documents, will likely result in another failed motion.

That wastes everyone’s time, and should be avoided.


If it is clear that in a particular meeting, your motion does not have sufficient support, continuing to argue its case will only gain ill will among the members, and likely make it more difficult to gain support for the motion in the future.

This also should be avoided.


“Off-Line Meetings” 

The Japanese refer to this type of action as “nemawashi”, which roughly translates as holding a conversation on the back porch, or over the back fence.  In the US, we call this ‘lobbying’.  Due to its use by some in Washington who attempt to ‘sway’ our leadership to positions favorable to a small group, instead of the best course for everyone, it has gotten a bad name.  However in Japan, it is an accepted practice to ensure smooth meetings, quick decisions, and consensus on mutually agreed courses of action.

I recommend reading the on-line ‘Blog’ on the topic:

I hope this helps.  Let me know if anything above was not clear to you.

Kimball Williams