Affinity Diagram

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Jul 29, 2020

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What is an Affinity Diagram?

An Affinity Diagram is a process of segregating the ideas, facts, processes, complex issues, or problems into their natural relationship. This was first created in 1960 by Jiro Kawakita and that is why it is also called the KJ diagram. The Affinity diagram is used when there is a complex and large amount of data or issues to solve them by grouping them into their similarity. This solves many complex issues and problems where we do not know how to start, what to start, and where to start.

The affinity diagram is especially used when the team is brainstorming and a lot of ideas and issues are generated. The groupings of similar types are called Affinity Sets. This affinity set is useful to solve one of the most fundamental and complex problems. Therefore the Affinity diagram is used in common and significantly used problem-solving methods. It is also one of the 7 management tools for planning.

Top 5 Reasons for Teams Using the Affinity Diagram Process

The top 5 reasons for teams using the affinity diagram are as follows.

Affinity diagram

  1.  An affinity diagram is used when the problem or issue is complex and hard to understand. Here the problem or issues are discussed and the team is not able to comprehend the solution to the problems because it is not simply multifarious and tough, by grouping the problems, issues, facts, and ideas into a similar group we touch the heart of the problems, thus we can find the root of the problems.
  2. The affinity process is used when the issues, facts, or ideas are disorganized and we do not know how to attack them to get better visibility. If they are disorganized then it is hard for our brain to think, so grouping the disorganized facts into some similar grouping gives us a better understanding
  3. An affinity diagram is used when things are uncertain, this means that failure is probable and there are elements of risks involved. To strike away from the dissimilarity and focus on the main risks or the failure factors we use this affinity diagram. Then you can segregate the risks into possible risk treatment options such as mitigate, transfer, avoid, and accept. Again the failures are attacked then by further SWOT analysis.
  4. When the facts, issues, problems, or ideas generated are overwhelming then again the affinity diagram is used to simplify the process of comprehending and decision making. When things are overwhelming at that stage it is difficult to make decisions.
  5. When the issues, facts, problems, and ideas are discussed in groups or teams the affinity diagram is the most desired management tool to solve them. The ideas or the problem statement generated are huge and thus it is difficult to classify or focus them.

When to Use an Affinity Diagram?

There are 2 ideal times when you have to use the affinity diagram process

  1. When a large volume of data is collected – For example when there are customer preferences in the sales data and customer shopping habits and their decision making on the purchase. The factors that influence its quality, aesthetic values, cost, colors, brand image, durability, environment friendly, and uniqueness. These form the heading for the affinity sets.
  2. To promote various patterns of thinking in the group – Brainstorming is the first step in the affinity diagram process. This promotes and provides an opportunity for all to participate and instead of a formal process the gut feeling from everyone is encouraged. Thus diverse thinking is encouraged in the groups to solve a problem or issues or to generate ideas.

Which is not the right time to use the Affinity process? 

There are two things when the affinity process must not be used,

  1. The affinity process must not be used when there are fewer than 15 data items. It does not give the result when we do this. When there are less than 15 data items at that time go for decision-making tools to prioritize. 
  2. When there is no brainstorming or there is no group or team for the data items. Sometimes it does not give results when there is no large amount of data collected by diverse participants.

Stepwise guideline about how an Affinity diagram is created

  1. The first step is to put the documented ideas, facts, or issues or problems in the post-it note and paste it on the board. Write the notes on the sticky-notes and then you can paste it on the board where everybody can see and think.
  2. When the contributions come in from everyone, now take another sticky-note and check whether it can make the header of the group.
  3. Similarly, check another contribution and check whether it relates to any groups
  4. Continue to use the sticky-note for every information and keep checking each group by group where it belongs.
  5. Next, by now you must have collected quite some clusters or the groups and under each group, you will have a list of many notes. Now refine them by studying them again.
  6. Discover the themes of each group as you refine them and create an information structure out of it.
  7. Rank the groups based on its importance by which one ranks first, second, and so on.
  8. It is better to link the items of each group by line diagram to another item of another group to further understand the groups very well
  9. Describe what you have grouped such as problems, issues, facts, ideas, pain points, etc and study how the groups are prioritized. 
  10. More than just identifying the similarity now focus on interpreting what you have organized.


Now that you know what Affinity diagrams are, learn them by practice and real-world examples from StarAgile. Select the suitable management course to learn the team building, leadership, and other management tools and explore more for your day to day job or to build a career in these subjects. 

There are Six Sigma online courses available with StarAgile to cater to various learning’s. Keep Learning!!!


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