FINESSE is a cause-and-effect approach for effective communication when there are high levels of complexity and uncertainty. Said another way, FINESSE is an approach used for big, strategic decisions that take months or years to make. FINESSE facilitates the memory of effective communication: Frame, Illustrate, Noise, Empathy, Structure, Synergy, and Ethics.
Don’t Use FINESSE if…
Major decisions that take months to resolve, require a significant amount of investment, and involve many people (and some calculations) have complexity and uncertainty. These are the situations where trusted advisors need FINESSE.
- Emergency response communications do not require FINESSE. People are looking to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible. A short-term communication approach is needed, FINESSE applies to the longer-term decision making that is required after the initial recovery.
- Daily operating decisions do not require FINESSE. Tens or hundreds of decisions are required each day, There is no time for developing visuals, debating calculations, or analyzing the audience. The timeline is short. Experience rules the day,
- FINESSE is not needed if you prefer a different approach to communicating to decision makers for strategic decisions with lots of complexity and uncertainty.
Be careful not to confuse a collection of tips as an approach. We are known and judged by our approaches. FINESSE is a cause-and-effect approach based on systems thinking. If you have a better approach, then use it.
The FINESSE Fishbone Diagram
The fishbone diagram is an obvious choice for depicting cause-and-effect relationships. Well, at least among technical professionals. I learned when I made a dressed-up version that fishbone diagrams are not as intuitive for wildlife artists.
The underlying issue with effective communication for technical professionals is complexity and uncertainty.
The solutions (or the root causes) are in the bones of FINESSE.
This is a brief description of each bone:
Frame is all about “a problem well-framed is a problem half solved.” Decision makers like to change the frame when they don’t get what they want, so framing also involves tying down the frame.
Illustrate is about the many visuals that are available to make us more, or less, effective. There are a handful of essential graphics and a handful of troublesome (but common) ones.
Noise is concerned about noise reduction. The burden of effective communication is on the sender, not the receiver.
Empathy is being able to put yourself in the shoes of the decision maker. The FINESSE chain is only as strong as the weakest link, and the empathy link is a big one.
Structure usually consists of an opening, the main body, and a close. The trick is that decision makers may only see the first act (the opening).
Synergy recognizes that decisions with complexity and uncertainty move through an inner circle of advisors and require multiple presentations. Group effects can hurt you or help you
Ethics are the way we make decisions. There are three major school of thought related to ethics. Most technical professionals prescribe to duty-based ethics, when means treating others the way you wish to be treated as a decision maker. No one wants to make a decision based on half-truths or without the full details.
Communicating with FINESSE® and the FINESSE fishbone diagram® are trademarks of JD Solomon, Inc. These trademarks protect our intellectual property from commercial use by parties without our permission. We encourage you to use FINESSE for practical, non-commercial purposes.
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JD Solomon is the author of Communicating Reliability, Risk & Resiliency to Decision Makers: How to Get your Boss’s Boss to Understand and Facilitating with FINESSE: A Guide to Successful Business Solutions.