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Writing Books and Articles


Business2Business Magazine, Lancaster, PA

VALUE READS—February 2011

By Ted Byrne, Editor/Economist

Roberta’s Rules of Order

Sometimes you have to go to the clothing store. No, not on fashion’s order, but because you’ve worn out something good.

That’s what’s happened to Robert’s Rules of Order. Your meetings need discipline, but Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert’s 1865 principles just won’t fit them any more. Think of Robert’s rules as hoop skirts and corsets … falling somewhere in that crack between history and nostalgia. But whether you prize their historic or nostalgic glow, there’s no reason to expect it will enlighten a group that needs a swift pattern for decision making. In fact, Robert’s rules frequently crush spontaneous decision making within its miles of inflexible lacings.

Too often, busy people avoid PTA, town council, or charity meetings because they’re tailored more by process than by function. Ditto team meetings at work where some form of Robert’s rules make brevity the first victim of order. And in business, brevity is the mother’s milk of productivity.

Alice Collier Cochran’s a tailor.… From the hundreds of meetings this influential management consultant’s attended, she’s fashioned a new design out of the best parts of General Robert’s great creation. In Roberta’s Rules of Order, Collier Cochran has upended the tyranny of process … process that shifts power in meetings away from idea people toward the priesthood who wield Robert rule-speak. Instead, she’s trimmed away Robert’s fussy and authoritarian discipline to reveal a relaxed democratic design for swiftly reaching agreement.

Now there’s a danger that the 305 pages of Roberta’s Rules of Order will intimidate you from even opening the thing. Not to worry. This is to meetings as a sewing machine is to designers. This book’s a tool with accessories that you’ll only need—when you need. With a powerful table of contents and robust index, most of those pages are there for potential use as reference should your group require new arm or legroom. The total book is roomy enough then to fit whatever activity a moment demands. But unlike using Robert’s rules, you don’t need a degree in Chaucerian Olde English to make this machine cut the cloth to fit your moment.

This does, however, highlight one problem with Roberta’s Rules of Order. Because the book is over 300 pages … and is so wonderfully written using a sailing metaphor that navigates you effortlessly through it … well, there’s a danger that you’ll find yourself actually reading the entire thing—need it or no.

I’m hoping that an electronic version of Roberta’s rules will soon walk down the electronic runway coupled with a designer’s app. That way every laptop or iPad will instantly create the pattern that snugly fits each meeting’s boutique needs.

Alice Collier Cochran’s written the new classic for managers anxious to guide productive meetings. It belongs on the meeting planner’s bookshelf.


For all leaders who would like to throw away the gavel and engage the  board, the assembly, and the council in thoughtful policy and direction, here are the guidelines for future effectiveness.

        Frances Hesselbein


        Leader to Leader Institute and former CEO of Girl Scouts, USA

It’s wonderful -- I think it will help everyone travel through rough waters, over whitecaps and steer clear of the shallows.

        Eric Craven

        Organization Effectiveness Consultant; Former Board Chair

I do not overstate it when I say that this book is perhaps one of the most important contributions to the third sector I have seen.  If board meetings could really become warm, easy, productive and effective, imagine how that would strengthen the organization!  I intend to put it in the hands of board members on every board I serve on or advise.

        Stephen Nill, JD

        Founder and CEO of Charity Channel 

        (read the complete review at We Review on

It is excellently written and gives an updated alternative to Robert’s Rules.  She suggests ways to run meetings similar to what we are all used to in our corporate world.  Plus she gives additional ways to really make your time efficient and effective.

        Suzanne Little, Board Chair

        Community Family Services


“Who Was Robert, and Why Do We Still Follow His Rules, Anyway?”

    By Alice Cochran in “The Board Member” journal, published by         BoardSource,   

Link to article

    Cochran, a nonprofit governance and meetings consultant, questions the usefulness of Robert's Rules of Order, the century-old parliamentary procedure still followed by nonprofits during their meetings. Cochran draws a distinction between the majority rule philosophy of Robert and the consensus rule alternative. She finds neither to be as effective as a modified consensus building procedure she dubs "concordance." Through it, Cochran says, boards can achieve democratic principles without parliamentary procedure.

“A Better Way to Sail Through a Meeting”

    By Sue Spenser, a Witherspoon member, for the Witherspoon Society of Progressive Presbyterians

Ms. Cochran is careful to preserve the right of the majority to decide issues and of the minority to protest.  But she understands that nonprofit organizations are “all about making a difference.  It’s hard to make a difference,, “she says, “when everyone is tangled up in the rigging of procedural formality and blanketed with fog.” 

So her rules lift the fog. Folderol (like “being recognized” before being allowed to speak” is discarded.  Passivity gives way to affability, military language disappears, manners govern discipline and there is emphasis on simplicity. “Whenever there are rules, everyone should be able to read them, remember them and use them easily.”

(After many years of Robert’s Rules)…we have Roberta’s Rules of Order ready to give us smooth sailing through our meetings, if we get aboard.

Link to article

“Roberta’s Rules Encourage Dialogue, Not Debate”

    By Rachael Hepworth for the East Bay Business Times (San Francisco area)

Link to article

"Roberta's Rules of Order:  Helping Progressive Presbyterians Be More Progressive in group Meetings and Decision-Making”

    By Alice Cochran, written for the Witherspoon Society

Link to article

Alice Collier Cochran • email • 415.457.8997 - Pacific Time

Roberta’s Rules of Order: Sail Through Meetings for Stellar Results without the Gavel.

Who was Robert and why do we still follow his rules anyway?


Roberta’s Rules of Order, published by Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, www.

and the new workbook:

QuickStart Guide to Roberta’s Rules of Order

To help you implement more modern meeting rules.  View the preview at using arrows at the top and order your copy.

Have you been in meetings that are are wasteful of your time, last too long, are too controlled and boring or end without taking action? 

The culture of meetings, often based on parliamentary procedure or no procedure at all, increases this possibility.  Now Roberta’s Rules has come to the rescue!