Affinity diagramming is a tool for capturing and organizing ideas. Project leaders can learn to use affinity diagramming to help their team be more creative and collaborate on innovative solutions for the problems that the project is designed to address. This example shows affinity diagramming in action.
- Defining your challenges and potential solutions is a key pillar of project leadership. But teams sometimes get stuck because they have too many ideas and can't figure out where to start. Let's see how to use affinity diagramming to help your team channel their creativity and clarify the scope of your project. With affinity diagramming, you can quickly transform a large number of divergent ideas into a handful of clearly defined themes.
You do it by looking for commonality, or affinity between the ideas, and then grouping them together. For example, you can lead a brainstorming activity and have everyone write their ideas on sticky notes. Then, you transition into an affinity diagramming exercise and move the sticky notes around so that the similar ideas appear near each other in groups or clusters. Let's look at how this would work for H+ Sport. We've said that the problem is that we are not meeting our customers' expectations.
How can we solve that problem? We did a brainstorming exercise and got a whole lot of very creative perspectives. Since the brainstorming was focused on generating lots of ideas, we needed to keep all of them, no matter how impractical they seemed. But now, we need to shift our focus to find the common themes and draw out the best ideas. So we transition from brainstorming to affinity diagramming and start looking for patterns.
Some examples of the ideas that came out were to stop shipping small orders. Another, was to focus narrowly on a small number of customer segments. And still another idea, was to shut down the ecommerce website. These are very different ideas, but they have something important in common. They would all reduce the volume of shipments that we make. So, through a discussion with the team, we agreed to affinitize them into a single theme called Reduce Volume.
We might stop there and decide to use one of these three options, or we might realize the key insight is that we should reduce volumes. And then, we can do some more brainstorming about different ways to do that. As you affinitize individual ideas into groups, try to ensure that the person who generated each idea agrees with the way you group it. If they agree with it, then they're more likely to feel ownership of the plan too.
If they disagree, you may need to create a new theme that better captures their idea. Affinitizing this way allows you to acknowledge everyone's contributions, yet can quickly compress a huge number of ideas into a manageable number of themes. Try this for yourself. First, think about a problem that you're dealing with. Then, set a timer, and give yourself 10 minutes to think of as many ways to solve that problem as you can.
Write each idea on a sticky note. And remember, you want lots of ideas, so let your imagination go wild. When the 10 minutes are up, affinitize the ideas. Group the ones that are similar, and see what themes emerge. The defining pillar of the direct project leadership framework requires both creativity and focus. Using affinity diagramming to organize ideas into a manageable number of themes helps you engage your team's creativity and find effective solutions.
- Name who is responsible for approving the resources for the project.
- Recall what the spine of a fishbone diagram represents.
- List characteristics of the environment.
- Identify the tools used for mapping processes.
- Recognize what needs to be captured on the action item list.
- Recall what project metrics should be related to.