The affinity diagram is a management and planning tool. Use of this tool is based on the
understanding that time invested in planning will produce remarkable dividends as the generated
ideas and plans are acted upon and implemented. Unlike the basic tools for improvement that
deal primarily with collecting and analyzing hard data, this tool focuses on issues and ideas, soft
An affinity diagram is the result of a creative process focused on finding the major themes
affecting a problem by generating a number of ideas, issues or opinions. The process identifies
these ideas, groups naturally related items and identifies the one concept that ties each grouping
together. The team working on a problem reaches consensus by the cumulative effect of
individual sorting decisions rather than through discussion.
What can it do for you?
Affinity diagrams can help you organize random data to show the underlying organization of a
problem or issue. They are especially useful if the situation seems chaotic because there is an
excess of ideas, influences, objectives or requirements, or if breakthrough thinking rather than
incremental improvement is required. An affinity diagram can help clarify the broad themes and
issues acting on any situation. The affinity process lets you sift through large volumes of
information efficiently and allows truly new patterns or approaches to emerge for consideration.
Affinity diagrams are especially useful in the measure and analyze phases of Lean Six Sigma
How do you do it?
1. The first step is to assemble the right team.
The team should consist of five or six people who have knowledge about the situation to be
considered. They should be relatively familiar with each other and accustomed to working together
and should “speak the same language,” but care should be taken not to bring together the same
old people to work on the same old problem. Include people with valuable input who may not have
been included in the past. I