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What is an Affinity Diagram?

An affinity diagram shows the relationships between information, opinions, problems, solutions, issues, contributing factors, and more by placing them in related groupings. It allows a broad range of ideas to be simplified and organized so they can be more effectively analyzed.

If you're familiar with the Seven Management Planning Tools, first published in the 70s and then translated into English in the 80s, you may have heard of affinity diagrams before. However, for those just starting out in the field of quality control and project management, it's not uncommon to stop and ask "What are these diagrams?" "How are they used?" "What is an affinity diagram?" "Or an interrelationship diagram? Or a prioritization matrix?".

In this article, we'll try to answer at least one of those questions: what is an affinity diagram.

Affinity Diagram

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Typical Uses

The Affinity Diagram is best used to organize a large quantity of information so that team members or employees are better able to draw conclusions and solutions. It is also very useful when the data presented can be potentially confusing and would be much simpler to understand if divided into related categories.

Best Practices
  • Identify the purpose. Determine the issue or aspect of business that will be the focus of the diagram. Place this as a title at the top of the page.
  • Determine groupings. Create major categories into which the solutions or factors can be arranged. These groupings should appear naturally and should be able to encompass more than one of the minor factors.
  • Determine contributing factors. Decide what major information, ideas, or issues should be included.
  • Organize. Begin placing each of the factors beneath the grouping with which it belongs. Continue to divide the factors until each has belongs in a specific category.
  • Analyze and share. Analyze the diagram with coworkers or team members in order to reach a decision or come to a better understanding of the issue.

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