The Worst Named Motion

I was at a meeting where the members did not want to make a decision on an issue. Any decision would just be bad business. When I told them that if they used Postpone Indefinitely, they would not be making a decision, everybody thought that that was the worst name for a motion that does not take a position. Hate to say it, but I have to agree.


Names do have an influence on how people think of an action. This is especially true when you are dealing across cultures as what has one meaning in one culture may have a totally different meaning in another. You can’t satisfy everybody, but there needs to be an attempt to satisfy most.

In Times of Trouble

After a huge earthquake, how do you go about canceling, rescheduling meetings? If you follow the rules of most Parliamentary Authorities, you have to have the scheduled meetings and then set up adjourned meetings. If you try to do that, expect everybody to just laugh at you and for parliamentary procedure to suffer a huge setback. It is a disaster and people expect the leaders of the organization to respond appropriately — taking disaster type responsibility.

This is a time when normal procedure just does not apply. I do not care what the authorities say as they do not fit into the situation at all. During the time around the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, when I was asked, I gave the standard response, but I omitted proving that it was actually done. Nor will I ever ask. I will find ways to defend the actions taken.

Thinking can be much more important than following some set of rules especially when people’s welfare is involved. Now, I deal with a group that is very involved in the issues of the day and their livelyhood demands that they respond to it first and foremost. Also, we had the lifeblood shaken out of us. The duty of the leadership was to respond to their needs and not some rule that had become “stupid” for the occasion.

Jonathan Jacobs has a great article about what needs to be in the bylaws to cover such situations. I am afraid that most people in the world assume that the leadership can do those things without any special articles. The bylaws etc. should be rules for life and when that becomes a problem, move on and keep the life going. Natural disasters happen; Parliamentary Procedure and Parliamentary Authorities need to help organizations get by them without additional strain.

How to Defeat a Motion

If you want to defeat a motion, there are certain techniques you can use. I am going to talk about some of them in this post.

First, move Objection to Consideration. Yes, it is a long shot. It has to be a motion that did not come from a committee or a higher authority. Two-thirds have to vote against consideration. A very long shot in most case, but what the heck.

Second, support every amendment that makes the motion more obnoxious. If it is a motion to spend money, increase the amount that is to be spent. The higher the amount, the less support it will probably have.

If somebody moves to send it to a committee, support that motion. The more time a motion takes, including time spent in committee, the less support a motion has.

The same is true if there are multiple motions to amend. It makes the motion look more complicated and people want the simple. Looks alone can be important in defeating the motion.

Postponing to a future meeting is another way to help defeat a motion. It can be delayed so it is not that important. Psychology is so important.

Got a speaker coming. Great. Use Lay on the Table legitimately. The motion can provide just enough delay to help you defeat the main one.

Some might see these motions as being tacky; but if you believe that the motion is not what the organization needs, you are being very legitimate in making them and supporting them.