Wednesday 8 December 2021

Affinity diagram

The purpose of the "Affinity Diagram" method is to identify relationships between individual ideas and solutions that at first glance have nothing in common.


This is achieved by grouping ideas and solutions and identifying deep relationships between the resulting groups. This method is also called the KJ method, the Latin letters K and J are the initials of the creator of the predecessor of this method, the Japanese anthropologist.

The affinity chart provides overall planning. It is a creative tool that helps to understand unsolved problems by revealing previously invisible connections between individual pieces of information or ideas, by collecting haphazardly presented oral data from different sources and analyzing them on the principle of mutual affinity (associative proximity).


Algorithm for creating an affinity chart

Participants gather in a room with a large board. The topic of discussion is recorded at the top of the board. The topic should be formulated in a concise and simple language in order to exclude its dual interpretations. You need to make sure that everyone involved in the process understands the topic.
The ideas or solutions put forward are determined by brainstorming. Ideas need to be formulated concisely and concisely, and write them down on stickers. Stickers are glued to the board in a random order.

Before starting any discussions, participants should move stickers around the board so that they form groups of interrelated ideas. Ordinary stickers move around the board many times until they take the right places. 


Depending on the number of ideas put forward, the whole procedure can take up to an hour. However, in some cases, the time allotted for the ordering of ideas can be set to be quite long, for example, a whole working day, several days or a week. During all this time, participants can approach the board and move stickers according to their vision of the problem and its solution.

At the end of the procedure of grouping stickers, the participants discuss the final form of the result. Taking into account the explanations received why certain stickers were in specific places, additional movements of stickers are possible. The total number of groups received should not exceed 5-10. It is important to give each group of stickers a name. Larger groups can be divided into subgroups of lower levels.

Now you can make the affinity diagram you are looking for. To do this, the selected groups, along with the names, are enclosed in rectangles. The rectangles are connected by arrows to indicate the relationships between the groups.

The final stage is to evaluate the resulting affinity diagram, taking into account its further use. Groups (rectangles) contain various proposed solutions to the problem under consideration. These decisions can influence each other. Consequently, the proposed solutions to the problem should be considered in conjunction with the development of improvement processes.

Example of applying an affinity diagram

The library receives a large number of negative customer reviews about the quality of service. To analyze the situation, we decided to use an affinity diagram. Librarians were included in the group. The participants in the experiment (six librarians of different ages representing different departments of the library) first determined the subject of the study. 


They formulated its name in such a way as to result recommendations for activities to improve customer satisfaction with the library. After brainstorming, the board with the stickers pasted in a random order looked like Figure 1.

Ideas arranged in a random order

After the first attempt to group ideas, which lasted about an hour, it became clear that it would not be possible to do this immediately now: too much effort and energy was taken by brainstorming. Therefore, all information on the board was kept unchanged for two days. All the while, librarians often approached the board to change the position of the stickers.

The arrows in the diagram show the relationships between individual elements that could not be placed in any group. This exercise allowed us to develop appropriate measures. 


All available ideas and solutions were divided into groups (cohorts), which included ideas that had internal connections.

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