An affinity diagram is a tool often used to gather ideas or issues and group them based on their relationships with each other.

When to use an affinity diagram

Affinity diagrams are often used following brainstorming activity when large groups of disorganized data have been assembled by a team, affinity diagrams help the team structure the data into organized groups.

How to build an affinity diagram

Building an affinity diagram isn’t a difficult task and can be summarised by these short steps

1/ Brainstorm ideas/issues

2/ Place ideas/issues on pieces of paper (I like to use Post it Notes or similar as you can stick these up on the wall/whiteboard

3/ As a team sort ideas/issues into groups based on their relationships

4/ Title each group

Once step 4 is completed you may wish to document your finished affinity diagram or capture it digitally via a spreadsheet etc.

Relating ideas/issues

A key step in producing an affinity diagram is grouping your ideas – these relationships may not be obvious in the first instance – to start with look for two ideas that are some way related – place these two pieces of paper together follow this approach until all ideas are grouped together (you might find relationships between groups – these groups can also be grouped together.)

When not to use the affinity process

As stated affinity diagrams are excellent and organizing large amounts of data but are not so effective at managing small amounts of data – while there is no set limit – we think affinity diagrams provide the most benefit when there is over 15-20 items of data

Summary

To sum up affinity diagrams are simple yet effective at grouping and displaying data – ideally used as a follow up to a brainstorming session. In a business improvement scenario this tool can be really effective when grouping ideas of root causes to process problems.

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