Affinity Diagram

Gather and combine similar items (or ideas) in an iterative manner.

Affinity Diagram cover image

Often used through an Affinity Diagram, it calls for the generation of a large number of ideas or issues and then organizing them to understand the essence of a problem and breakthrough solutions. Organizing collapses many ideas/issues into clusters of big ideas, forming a more clear view of the different facets within each cluster. It doesn’t really matter how they decide this grouping, it’s enough that clusters are somewhat consistent. Once the clusters (the big ideas) are identified, a single sentence is formed that encompasses all the ideas/issues inside it. This helps in forming a single one-sentence prompt for each idea, that allows quick recall of the core and extent of the ideas/issues in the cluster. The result is a short list of the most important ideas/issues summarized into their most important points. It provides an "executive summary" (or a blue-sky view) of all what is important that was collected during the brainstorming phase.

The Affinity process is often used to group ideas generated by brainstorming, and it is a good way to get people to work on a creative level to address difficult issues. It may be used in situations that are unknown or unexplored by a team, or in circumstances that seem confusing or disorganized, such as when people with diverse experiences form a new team, or when members have incomplete knowledge of the area of analysis.

When should we use the Affinity process?

  • Sift through large volumes of data. For example, a process owner who is identifying customers and their needs might compile a very large list of unsorted data. In such a case, creating an Affinity Diagram might be helpful for organizing the data into groups.
  • Encourage new patterns of thinking. An Affinity exercise is an excellent way to get a group of people to react on a "gut level" rather than mulling things over intellectually. Since Brainstorming is the first step in making an Affinity Diagram, the team considers all ideas from all members without criticism. This stimulus is often enough to break through traditional or entrenched thinking, enabling the team to develop a creative list of ideas.

How to create an Affinity Diagram:

  1. Generate ideas.
  2. Display ideas.
  3. Sort ideas into groups
  4. Identify group themes
  5. Draw finished diagram

1. Brassard, M. (1989). The Memory Jogger Plus+, pp. 17 - 39. Methuen, MA: Goal/QPC. 2. Department of the Navy (November 1992). Fundamentals of Total Quality Leadership (Instructor Guide), pp. 6-64 - 6-67. San Diego, CA: Naval Personnel Research and Development Center. 3. Department of the Navy (June 1994). Methods for Managing Quality (Instructor Guide), Module 2, Lesson 4, pp. 48 - 57. Washington, DC: OUSN Total Quality Leadership Office. 4. King, R. (1989). Hoshin Planning, The Developmental Approach, pp. 4-2 - 4-5. Methuen, MA: Goal/QPC.
Created on Sep 20, 2020 19:10,
last edited on Sep 20, 2020 18:52