AFFINITY DIAGRAM

An Affinity Diagram is a creative process, used with or by a group, to gather and organize ideas, opinions, issues, etc.


AN AFFINITY DIAGRAM IS USED FOR:

  1. Adding structure to a large or complicated issue (example: What are the issues relative to implementing a thematic approach to teaching?; what are the central issues in the development of a particular new product?)
  2. Breaking down a complicated issue into broad categories (example: Which departments are more likely to implement TQM in this school?; what are the major steps in the completion of a complex project?)
  3. Gaining agreement on an issue or situation (example: Which direction should the school take to restructure its curriculum?; how should a new product be marketed?)

STEPS IN CONSTRUCTING AN AFFINITY DIAGRAM:

  1. State the issue or problem to be explored. Start with a clear statement of the problem or goal and provide a time limit for the session-usually 45-60 minutes is sufficient.
  2. Brainstorm ideas for the issue or problem. Each participant should think of ideas and write them individually on index cards, sticky notes, or have a recorder write them on a flip chart.
  3. Collect the cards or sticky notes, mix them up and spread them out (or stick them) on a flat surface (e.g., desk or wall). Index cards can easily be secured to a wall with a putty-type adhesive.
  4. Arrange the cards or sticky notes into related groups. For approximately 15 minutes allow participants to pick out cards that list related ideas and set them aside until all cards are grouped.
  5. Create a title or heading for each grouping that best describes the theme of each group of cards.

AN EXAMPLE:

PROBLEM: Obstacles in Implementing TQM in an Organization

Generated Thoughts by the Group:

  • No one has done this in our industry
  • Management has no vision
  • Lack of direction
  • People don't have the math skills for this
  • We've never worked in teams; don't know how
  • Management doesn't understand their role
  • Senior management are not committed
  • Will probably fail like most new programs
  • No time to do it
  • Direction unclear
  • No major problems, why do it?
  • Management has no credibility
  • No leadership at the top
  • Will never be able to sell the idea throughout the organization
  • Will turn into downsizing
  • To busy fighting fires to start something new
  • Will turn into another performance appraisal system that pits people against each other
  • Too much fear in the organization; managment has not demonstrated ability to share information
  • Employees are getting conflicting messages about the importance of TQM
  • We'd have to restructure to even begin
  • Untrained in TQM
  • Don't understand systems thinking
  • No funding for education and training
  • Don't know what work improvement is
  • Don't know how to make the tracking/measurement systems necessary
  • Management will never accept outside help in beginning the process
  • Company has tried too many new things that haven't worked
  • Will really threaten middle management
  • No time for any more work (work day is only 10 hours!)
  • No ongoing group to model this behavior
  • Why do it? Won't benefit me!
  • Little trust in management
  • Most people will just resist change
  • Many employees are illiterate and won't be able to learn this
  • People don't have the math skills for this
  • We've never worked in teams; don't know how

Categorized Obstacles: Now Solutions Can Be Devised

Already Over Worked (Too Busy)

  • No time to do it
  • No time for any more work (work day is only 10 hours!)
  • We'd have to restructure to even begin
  • To busy fighting fires to start something new

Communication Issues

  • Will never be able to sell the idea throughout the organization
  • Employees are getting conflicting messages about the importance of TQM

Resource Problems

  • No funding for education and training
  • No ongoing group to model this behavior

Educational Problems

  • Don't understand systems thinking
  • Management will never accept outside help in beginning the process
  • Company has tried too many new things that haven't worked

Trust Problems

  • Little trust in management
  • Will probably fail like most new programs
  • Will turn into downsizing
  • Too much fear in the organization; managment has not demonstrated ability to share information

Current Reward/Recogition System not Compatible with New System

  • No major problems, why do it?
  • Will really threaten middle management
  • Why do it? Won't benefit me!
  • Will turn into another performance appraisal system that pits people against each other
  • Most people will just resist change

Training

  • Untrained in TQM
  • Many employees are illiterate and won't be able to learn this
  • People don't have the math skills for this
  • We've never worked in teams; don't know how
  • Don't know what work improvement is
  • Don't know how to make the tracking/measurement systems necessary

Leadership

  • No one has done this in our industry
  • Direction unclear
  • Management has no vision
  • Lack of direction
  • Management doesn't understand their role
  • Senior management are not committed
  • Management has no credibility
  • No leadership at the top