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Affinity Diagram: Practical variations

The Quality Toolbook > Affinity Diagram > Practical variations

When to use it | How to understand it | Example | How to do it | Practical variations


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Practical variations

  • Use adhesive memo notes, instead of cards. These stay where they are put, and can be used to sort the notes vertically, on a whiteboard or flipchart. A disadvantage with these is that they are not as durable as card.
  • Use different style conventions for showing groups. For example, with group headers not in boxes and groups in rounded boxes (as illustrated in Fig. 1).



Fig. 1. Style conventions

  • If cards are used, stop them from moving by attaching them to the organization area, either with reusable adhesive pads or by using a pinboard.
  • Do it quickly, to ensure that only feelings and intuition are used to sort cards.
  • Do it slowly and carefully, thinking of the real meaning of each card.
  • Create one group at a time, selecting only cards from the parking area that fit together in the current group.
  • Where there is disagreement (typified by silent moving of cards back and forth), allow people to create a duplicate card, so two or more groups can simultaneously contain the same card. Mark the duplicate cards to indicate their status. This effectively causes an overlap between groups (which may be shown as such on the final diagram).
  • Allow group members to write new cards during the KJ session, possibly starting with no cards at all.
  • If the resultant diagram has many lines close to one another, then groups may be highlighted by the use of color or line weight.
  • Use flipchart paper for the organization area, and draw vertical lines to create four columns per sheet. Use one column for each group. This makes it easier to sort cards within a limited space. It also prompts for groups to be split if they get too big to fit in one column.
  • Keep it simple with only one level of sort (so there is no hierarchy of headers), as Fig. 2.



Fig. 2. Simple, single columns

  • When the diagram is complete, add arrows between items and groups to show significant relationships. This is useful where the structure of the problem is mostly hierarchical, but has some interrelationships, and usually illustrates it better than a Relations Diagram.


Fig. 3. Relationship arrows


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