The affinity diagram, also referred to as KJ method(from the name of its inventor), is a method that by brainstorming all the ideas improves the decision making process. It is a perfect tool for organizing pieces of information into well ordered group. It also provides decent structure to a chunks of various data gathered among the team. This successful yet very simple tool, where team members write down their thoughts on a small pieces of paper, provides better understanding of the matter and is a great starting point for analyzing main points and finding a solution(Charantimath 2003, p. 96; Plain C. 2007, p. 88).
Constructing an Affinity Diagram
The only things needed in this process are sticky notes or a pieces of paper, group of creative people and an ideas. It is the best used in a workshop environment as it helps group, analyze and talk over outstanding issues(Andler N. 2012, ch. 3.4.6). Develop such diagram requires:
- Stating a clear problem or goal - it all begins with proper understanding of what need to be achieved. Executive-level report or a scorecard are major factors for comprehension of the key-goals(Milosevic D. Z. 2003, p. 282).
- Defining time period in which the project will take place.
- Brainstorming - thinking of possible outcomes and solutions and writing them down.
- Spreading written ideas over a surface(wall or a large table usually works best).
- Determining cause-effect connections and circling them around the issue card.
- Grouping the ideas into previously defined order and naming them. Even rearranging some of ideas may influence team members and shed some light into the problem.
- Summarizing the groups and preparing their final arrangement - taking a closer look at the notes and ideas is a great way to find solutions that may have not been spotted previously.
Useful Tips for Creating an Affinity Diagram
Assuming that "affinity diagrams help arrange many pieces of data into manageable groups"(Plain C. 2007, p. 88), it is highly useful to know how to efficiently arrange them:
- One note - one topic rule - to avoid mix-ups and unnecessary confusion it is the best to write down just one issue per one piece of paper.
- Avoiding any order before setting the cards up - think first, manage later rule applies.
- Don't make too much changes - the bigger the field of work and possibilities, the better the possible outcome and results.
- Keep it silent, but only during the final arrangements - it is the best time to take a step back and analyze things from a wider perspective.
- Group headings are important - brainstorm them too, it is the title that starts the process.
- Resulting diagram is the main goal - take time to discuss it with the team members.
- Andler N., (2012). Tools for Project Management, Workshops and Consulting: A Must-Have Compendium of Essential Tools and Techniques, John Wiley & Sons, ch. 3.4.6
- Charantimath, (2003). Total Quality Management, Pearson Education India, p. 95-97
- Milosevic D. Z., (2003). Project Management ToolBox: Tools and Techniques for the Practicing Project Manager, John Wiley & Sons, p. 282-284
- Plain C., (2007). Build an Affinity for K-J Method, Quality Progress; Milwaukee, Vol. 40, Iss. 3, p. 88
- Widjaja W. (et al.), (2013). Discusys: Multiple User Real-time Digital Sticky-note Affinity-diagram Brainstorming System,Procedia Computer Science, vol. 22, p. 113-122
Author: Kamil Ochmański