The spectrum of how thoroughly a Board of Directors follows parliamentary procedure and applies Robert’s Rules of Order at their meeting varies greatly. Most associations are pretty informal and use the typical “motion, second, discussion, majority vote” on decision making matters. That might be the extent of it. Some are quite lax and don’t even officially call a meeting to order. Alternatively, a few take it to the extreme and want to emulate England’s House of Commons.
There are many, many layers of structure and subtleties to Robert’s Rules of Order. After all, it’s a 669-page book! The reality is most Boards really only need to apply about 5% of what the book has to offer. One of the important components, however, is tabling motions. It is important to know the difference between “tabling” and “postponing” resolutions or motions a Board may be facing. “Let’s table that item” can casually be heard and agreed on at meetings, but there is a significance and protocol that should be followed to be operating “correctly.” If an item is placed on the Agenda under New Business, it should be acted on. If the Board is not ready to do so, they have a couple of options.
1. Table. If the Board is not ready to vote – be it a lack of information, a sensitive topic people need more time to process or deliberate, or other urgent matters came up – a member may make a motion to “table” the item. The motion needs a second. It is NOT debatable/open to discussion. And then it needs a majority to carry the motion. The important point to remember; however, is that it must be re-addressed at the NEXT official meeting.
2. Postpone. If the Board is not ready to vote and if there is uncertainty on when it will be ready, then a motion should be made to “postpone until ______ (fill in the blank).” Herein lies the major difference between tabling and postponing; postponing can be defined, but tabling is at the next meeting. Postponing requires motion, second, it CAN be debated/discussed, and a majority vote to carry.
Regardless of how strictly your Board follows Robert’s Rules, the distinction between tabling and postponing is an important one. Think of it this way, if a homeowner sees an Agenda listing a specific New Business item up for resolution, your Minutes should accurately reflect the result, or deferred result (tables or postponed) so they can be assured you’re acting within procedure. It is also a great reminder for how to manage your “Old Business” vs “New Business” to ensure you are moving things along and bringing matters to conclusion.