Affinity Diagram


The Affinity Diagram is a quality management tool used for Project Management. A Six Sigma Green or Black Belt most often use this tool in DFSS projects or in the MEASURE phase of a Six Sigma DMAIC project. It's designed to invoke creative thinking and organize qualitative information into related topics. It is the easiest and least complex modern quality tool to begin the problem-solving journey.

The Affinity Diagram is used for new, complex, or unfamiliar problems but not mathematical or structured problems. It is easy to use and can get the team moving forward together by bringing out each person's input, thoughts, and questions.

By breaking down large amounts of data and visualizing in groups makes it is easier for the team to understand and analyze. Trying to interpret everything at one time going from one topic to another can be chaotic and inefficient.


It is often used to analyze feedback from the Voice of the Customer findings. There may be several customers that have feedback related to one topic and others that have feedback on others. This tool allows them to be grouped and studied by topic. This can also be used at any time to organize a broad set of issues or opinions.


As with using most tools, using the Affinity Diagram begins with educating the team on the use and purpose of the tool.

It is a brainstorming, mind-mapping, and then grouping technique that organizes ideas according to their affinity (similarity). This does not involve and quantitative analysis or ranking. Credit is given to Jiro Kawakita for development of this tool in the 1960's. Therefore, the Affinity Diagram is also referred to as The KJ Method (not JK).

Other grouping techniques include the interrelationship diagram and the Ishakawa Diagram, or Fishbone Diagram, which is used in the MEASURE phase.

A large number of ideas from all team members are written in silence or as group session and posted on a board or otherwise gathered. Commonly, teams use notes and stick them to a board and they are moved around into their respective categories as discussion takes place.

Once all notes are complete and gathered, the leader should discuss each one briefly but enough so everyone understands it and can agree to which topic or category to locate it in.

It is often that team members disagree on which topic to place the note(s), many could fall in two or more categories. Make a copy of the note and put in more than one category.

Topics include part, machine, delivery, quality, form, tools, service, cost and the list can go on almost infinitely depending on the project.

Once the notes are organized into the general topics, it may be desirable to break down the topic further. This is helpful when the topic is very general and/or there are many notes on one topic, and they are not closely related.

Many notes or statements may be identical, keep them all and cluster them together under the related topic. There may be miscellaneous notes that don't fall into one specific category. Group them together or individually, ensure to value them as well as the others.

There are seven common Project Management tools that Six Sigma project managers should be familiar with:

1) Matrix Diagram

2) Tree Diagram

3) Process Decision Program Chart (PDPC)

4) Activity Network Diagram

5) Interrelationship Diagram (ID)

6) Affinity Diagram

7) Prioritization Matrix, (also used in the MEASURE phase)

Practice Exam Question

Rank the quality management tools from least complex to most complex:

1) PDPC Chart
2) Affinity Diagram
3) Matrix Diagrams
4) Priority Matrix

Answer: 2,1,3,4

A Tree Diagram is similar in complexity to the PDPC Chart.  

Test your knowledge with over 180 practice exam questions similar to this. Get a Practice Test here. 

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