Saturday, May 2, 2015

Order out of Chaos

Today, please take a moment to remember one of the most important unknown people in American history.


On this date in 1837, Henry Martyn Robert was born.


His distinguished career included overseeing construction of the extensive fortifications around Washington, DC and Philadelphia during the Civil War. He later co-chaired the 1901 commission that made recommendations for improving coastal barriers and breakwaters after a hurricane destroyed Galveston, Texas.


But it is his contribution between these two endeavors why we pay him homage.


In 1876, Brigadier General Robert was stationed in San Francisco.  During his posting, Robert wanted to bring some order to the various San Francisco civic meetings he attended or presided over.


He also wanted to develop processes that fostered dialogue, not just debate.  He compiled “Robert’s Rules of Order” to help his colleagues manage their meetings.


Initially, publishers were not interested in such a compilation. Robert’s used his own money to publish the first 4,000 copies. It is now one of the most read and referenced texts on meeting management in the world.


Robert passed away on May 11, 1923, but his role in bringing order to countless meetings lives on.
In September 2001, the National Association of Parliamentarians commemorated the 125th anniversary of Robert’s Rules by placing a brass plaque in front of his former home at 1812 N Street, NW in Washington, DC.


For the rest of us, we should honor Robert’s memory by making sure all our meetings run well.

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