Affinity Diagram

Posted on August 5, 2009 by

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Although listed as a Group Creativity Technique for the fourth edition PMBOK®’s Collect Requirements process, this technique is versatile and used beyond the boundaries of project management. The purpose of this technique is to sort a large number of ideas into smaller groups. First, each idea is written on its own piece of paper. Then, similarities are found among the ideas and the paper is sorted into groups based on these similarities. Sticky notes work well if the ideas are to be sorted and grouped on a wall. In a group setting, people may have different ideas for groupings. For example, during a Six Sigma Green Belt training event at TAPUniversity last summer, each participant wrote down a types of food on sticky notes. There were meats such as fried chicken, barbeque chicken, and kung pao chicken. Other dishes included snow peas and broccoli stir-fry, egg roll, steamed fish with ginger, apples, ice cream, and cereal. It was not surprising that we ended up with a group of foods labeled “chicken” and a group labeled “Chinese food.” There was then some discussion on which of these two groups kung pao chicken should be in! Overall, affinity diagrams are a good method to take a large number of ideas and concepts and start making sense of them by breaking them into workable groups.