Affinity Diagram

An Affinity Diagram, also known as the KJ Method, is a tool used for organizing large amounts of disorganized information into groups based on their natural relationships and affinity (similarity of characteristics). The process has you place unorganized ideas generated from a brainstorming session into meaningful and connected themes.  The goal of this process is to take a broad range of ideas and organize them so they can be more effectively analyzed.


About the Affinity Diagram

Japanese anthropologist, Kawakita Jiro, originally developed the Affinity Diagram. His diagram is a type of brainstorming technique that allows you to generate, organize, and merge information concerning complex processes or problems. It is often used for solving problems with issues that seem to be very complex and difficult to manage.

As part of the process, a group of individuals review a bunch of ideas generated from brainstorming.  After which, they place these ideas into related and meaningful categories called affinity sets. These categories tie different concepts together with one underlying theme. This way the newly formed groups of ideas can be analyzed and prioritized before being implemented.


Constructing an Affinity Diagram

Constructing an Affinity Diagram is a group activity involving about 3-6 participants. The idea is to get a variety of perspectives, opinions, and insights from all the participants.

The Affinity Diagram organizes ideas with following steps:

  1. Write down each idea (generated from a brainstorming session) on a separate index card or post-it note.
  2. After you have written all the ideas down, place the cards/Post-its randomly on a board or table. At this point, do not worry about organizing the information.
  3. Review the ideas to see possible relationship between the ideas. Participants should discuss patterns or relationships that are identified.
  4. Move the cards/post-it notes so that the similar/related ideas are together on the table or wall.
  5. Sort cards/notes into groups until all cards (ideas) have been assigned a group.
  6. After the ideas are grouped, select the meaningful affinity heading to categorize each group or theme.
  7. Write the heading on a card and place the heading cards at the top of each of the groupings.
  8. Analyze the affinity diagram with all participants. This will help the group reach a decision or come to a better understanding of the key issues to address.


Additional Links

Seven Management Planning Tools

Activity Network Diagram

Interrelationship Diagram

Process Decision Program Chart

Tree Diagram

SWOT Analysis


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