By the CIToolkit content team   |   3 minutes read

Affinity Diagram

Affinity Diagram

An affinity diagram is a grouping method for classifying items together into meaningful categories. It is often used to capture and group the output of brainstorming and problem-solving meetings in order to provide better understanding of the topic discussed. It allows to classify a large number of thoughts for further review and analysis. It is also known as KJ Analysis and Affinity Mapping.

An affinity diagram is commonly used during idea-generation brainstorming sessions. It is also used during process improvement and problem-solving sessions when the problem is subjective or held by different people. It can also be used to organize the voice of the customer to find useful messages in customer statements. Feedback from customers is valuable information and needs to be organized in an appropriate manner to be useful.


Affinity exercises can have different inputs depending on their purposes

By creating an affinity diagram, you will be able to organize ideas and information and see how they are connected. You will also be able to identify the characteristics that distinguish each category. And by conducting the affinity exercise as a team activity, everyone can contribute, which brings out the best ideas and leads to better results.

An affinity exercise tends to be more effective when it is conducted by a team of subject matter experts, and when it is led by a facilitator who is familiar with the subject. It can be broken down into three basic steps: collecting, grouping and labeling. Remember that the primary goal is to create a limited number of classified groups.


An affinity exercise can be broken down into three basic steps

How to Conduct an Affinity Session

  • With your team, present the topic or define the problem clearly.
  • Give your team sticky-notes then ask them to write one idea or response per sticky-note.
  • Collect the sticky notes and stick them randomly on the wall.
  • Lead the participants to group the ideas into categories.
  • Lead the participants to label the categories.

Here are some hints that could be helpful when constructing an affinity diagram:

  • When grouping items, use feeling rather than conventional classifications.
  • Move items between groups if required.
  • Eliminate duplicate items and the items that are not worth keeping.
  • Add arrows between items and groups to show relationships.
  • In case an interview is to be conducted and information is to be provided verbally, make sure to record the actual spoken words.

Example

The following is a completed affinity diagram which has been developed after a brainstorming session, and which identifies how to successfully implement and sustain change within an organization.

Note: There should be no discussion or evaluation of ideas of any kind until the final affinity diagram is complete.

Example

This an example of an affinity diagram which was developed to help a training manager to understand his duties and responsibilities. This is an example of a universal process that can be performed by every business. To see more universal processes like this one, please visit our affinity diagrams section.

There are many tools that can help you to construct an affinity diagram. One of the simplest ways is to use this affinity diagram template.


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