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FINESSE Is More Than Strategy

Picture of Melissa Ruth, who believes in the FINESSE fishbone diagram and Communicating with FINESSE!
Author and software consultant Melissa Ruth believes that effective communication starts with presenting from the other person's perspective, not your own.

Have you ever left a meeting wondering why your audience didn't come to the same conclusion you did? Why didn't they sign on to your idea immediately? I mean, it seems obvious to you that this is the right path but they still aren't on board?

I have been there, too—both in my workplace and in my family life.

When I first heard JD speak about his communication method called FINESSE, I did not understand why there was a 3-hour session on communicating with the C-suite. Nor did I understand just how he turned this information into a workshop. It seemed so basic. Isn’t it as simple as presenting the facts and they will make the right choice?

Shortly after he started the session, though, as the information he was sharing started to take root in my brain, I had an epiphany that struck me at my core. It was such a simple yet profound thought that I had to think about it before I could put it into words. I still am not sure I do it justice. The thought I came up with was, "Wait…you mean the CEO, director, or manager that I'm pitching this idea to doesn't think like me or have my experience?!"

Taken a bit further, “You mean my husband and children don’t think our problems and solutions like me or even rationalize things like me?! What?!”

You see, at the core of our brains, we KNOW they don't have our experience or our insight. We even acknowledge that we don't have their experience or insights. Yet, when developing our pitch for our ideas or recommendations, we often start preparing it as if we were talking to someone who knows what we know and think like we think. Sure, we add some numbers and stats, maybe even some KPIs, but it all started as a presentation largely geared towards our department's needs and objectives and how WE will be better in the end.

I recently had this experience come full circle when I was asked to write a strategy document for the launch of software in an organization. I could not figure out why it was not right until my eyes happened to glance over JD’s book on my bookshelf. I looked at the fish model and realized I had to reposition everything. You see, it was not about our individual results as a department. If this was going to work, it had to be about the organization as a whole. So, I rewrote the document with that in mind. I used his book and fish model to reposition my thoughts. How will this strategic approach benefit the bottom line? How will it change the way we work within the organization? What benefit does this bring to other departments, and how will that benefit the whole organization? I brought in some ideas about building the larger team, working as one organization, and ensuring the data we collect is best utilized both upstream AND downstream.

In the end, my strategy document was viewed as a success. The strategy was adopted from a holistic perspective rather than at the department level because the CEO liked it so much.

My biggest takeaway was that taking the time to evaluate WHO I was speaking to and then using JD’s process to structure it made all the difference. I was able to see the bigger picture and speak to it.

If I’m being honest, the same happened recently within my immediate family. The understanding that each child, my mother-in-law, and my husband requires a different level of communication and information has helped me communicate better as a mother.

You see, this is because this thought works in all directions. Consider your audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who actually will have the decision-making power for this decision?

  • Who are they (i.e., background, current position, KPIs)?

  • What do they care about (KPIs, people, profit, etc.)?

  • Who do they listen to and what does that person care about?

  • What is THEIR why?

  • Extra bonus if you know their communication style….

Once you know those questions, you can present a true solution that will resonate with them and walk away with the results you were hoping for.

So, the next time you have a proposal to write or present, I suggest you whip out that fish model and bring more than the right solution to the table. In truth, this is marketing 101 and your audience is just as important as the message.


Melissa Ruth is a wife, a software consultant, and a makeup-loving mother of 4 with an MBA in technical management, effective facilitator certification, certified reliability leader certification, licensed chaplain, and a big heart.

She has been described as a distracted procrastinator, an entrepreneur, a natural-born leader, and a tenacious warrior. As a strong believer in Jesus Christ, she has found that she had to learn to embrace life where she was at, and trust God to help her navigate through a myriad of life experiences and a variety of roles. Believing those experiences were given to her to help others find their purpose in life, Melissa finally put her pen to paper (or rather - her fingers to her phone) to share her stories and viewpoints with you. She prays that her books will not only help others find peace where they are but also give them hope and joy in their life journey.

You can connect with Melissa in the following ways:

Twitter and Periscope: @MelissaRuth

Instagram: MelissaERuth

Purchase Melissa's books at:

Invite Melissa to speak at your next engagement by contacting her via email:


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