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3 tips for dealing with meeting overload

Last week I came across the following visual on LinkedIn.

Visual material always makes the grade on social media. So do decision trees.

But I’m going to be honest with you: Decision trees deeply annoy me. They simplify things just that tad too much. The elegantly styled tree is telling us one thing: we are all idiots; follow the arrows and hocus pocus problem solved.

What the drawing of the tree isn’t telling us is the quality of the soil feeding it.

That soil often oozes pestilential elements. I see three of them:

Toxic element number 1: we confuse being together with value-creating collaboration.

Bringing people together will not guarantee true, productive collaboration. Do the following situations sound familiar?

  1. Decisions need to be made in the meeting. The person entitled to take decisions is absent.

  2. The meeting is used to push a great deal of information to a large number of people. Participants have put themselves on mute and are happily tapping away on their mobile phones.

  3. The meeting was meant to be a brainstorm. It is immediately hijacked by the more extravert and those higher in rank.

Well, there is no decision tree that can compete with that.

Toxic element number 2: macho-behaviour.

Careful, also manifested in people with breasts.

Some organisations worship a culture of secrecy: meeting marathons where power is exhibited, preferably around a physical table.

To be allowed to attend these meetings = to get information first hand = to be important.

Well, there is no decision tree that can compete with that.

Toxic element number 3: chaos.

What if work processes are not clearly defined in an organisation? What if it is not clear who is allowed to make decisions? What if there is doubt about when to throw a task over the wall for someone else? What if there has been no clear agreement about who can determine when something is good enough? Or, what if the information that people need isn’t clearly structured?

Well, there is no decision tree that can compete with that.

Being constantly available for one another. Always having to ask other colleagues questions to be able to do your job. In my opinion, this does not portray a sense of togetherness or of a strong culture. It is rather a symptom of badly organised work – of carelessly structured information and knowledge – a small heap insipidly held together by 4 walls.

Decision trees are handkerchiefs for the bleeding. They shush the symptoms.

In my workshops and webinars, I invite participants to dig deeper. To grab the roots of evil with two firm hands.

I then put them to work, together with the team, on the basis of strong statements and assignments.

Some examples:

  • Meetings are intrusive moments. They veer us away from the real work. That real work: what is that exactly? Make a list individually and with the team.

  • Which meetings in the past weeks were scheduled because our work processes are not defined clearly enough? What should be done to clarify those work processes?

  • Which meetings were scheduled because the information colleagues needed was nowhere to be found?

Do you want to grab the evil in meetings by the roots? Don’t hang around in decision trees.

Dare to look down at what lies in the ground. And I will gladly guide you along the way.


Which elements have I missed out above? Meaning, what else – deep in the ground – makes meetings so ravingly rampant?

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1 Comment

Joop Bosman
Joop Bosman
Aug 31, 2022

Wonderful piece, Isabel.

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