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Process improvement project - Improve -

What are Affinity Diagrams used for?

Too many ideas?

Information overload?

Where to begin with all the data?

How can you use data and ideas effectively?

Affinity diagrams helps you organise it!

1.  Organizes Ideas into Common Themes

2.  Groups similar ideas together

Read on for why and how to create Affinity Diagrams...

When can Affinity Diagrams be used?

To draw out common themes from a large amount of information,

To discover previously unseen connections between various ideas or information,

To brainstorm Root Causes and solutions to a problem,

Where a solution is not readily apparent,

You want to reach a consensus or decision and have a lot of variables to consider, concepts to discuss, ideas to connect, or opinions to incorporate,

When there is a large volume of information to sort through.

Business process management, flmlean, lean office


Using a Touch Phone
Step 1 - Describe the problem or issue

Example - Service to customers is sub standard

1.  Generate ideas by brainstorming. Write each idea on a separate sticky note and put these on a wall or flip chart.


Remember to

  • Emphasize volume (you need lots of ideas)

  • Don’t judge (don’t ask for immediate solutions)

  • Piggyback on other ideas (ask for more detail if the post-it description is too vague)

Business process management, flmlean, lean office
Step 2 - Sort Ideas

Sort ideas into natural themes by asking

  • What ideas are similar?

  • Is this idea connected to any of the others?

Business process management, flmlean, lean office

If you're working in a team

  1. Separate into smaller groups of 3 to 4 people

  2. Sort the ideas in silence so that no one is influenced by anyone else's comments

  3. Keep moving the cards around until consensus is reached

Business process management, flmlean, lean office
Step 3 - Group consensus

1.  Discuss the shared meaning of each of the sorted groups.  Continue until consensus is reached.  If some ideas do not fit into any theme, separate them as "stand-alone" ideas

2. If some ideas fit into more than one theme, create a duplicate card and put it in the proper group.  Try to limit the total number of themes to between five and nine

Step 4 - Create Theme Cards

Also called affinity cards or header cards

1.  Create a short 3-5 word description for the relationship.  If you are working in a group, do this together, out loud

2.  Write the theme/header on a blank card and place at the top of the group it describes

3.  Then create a "super-header" where necessary to group themes


When you have grouped all themes (headers) together in as few categories as possible, results will give you a straight forward, simple, hierarchical structure that shows, at a glance, where the relationships are

You now have a focused summary of ideas to start working on, and making an Action Plan, and a clear goal of what it is you want to fix.


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