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Research Division

Family Medicine

QI Tool - Affinity Diagram

The affinity diagram is used to gather large amounts of verbal data and organize it into groupings based on the relationships between the items. It is a creative, rather than logical process.

Steps in constructing an affinity diagram:

  1. All members of the group agree on and understand the problem statement.
  2. Each member of the group writes down verbal responses to the problem on 3 by 5 cards or post-it notes, one response per card. This is done independently and in silence.
  3. The cards are laid on a table or the post-it notes are stuck on a flat surface in no apparent order.
  4. The team members then silently move the cards or notes into clusters that appear to share similar ideas. The notes can be moved as many times as is necessary until the group is satisfied with the clusters. A cluster can contain any number of cards--even one. Often seven to ten clusters will come out of this activity.
  5. The group then clarifies and discusses the relationship between the items and assigns a title for the cluster. Many times one of the cards within the cluster will serve as a title for the entire cluster, if not, develop one and place it over the cluster. If there are any items that fell into a miscellaneous cluster, see if they now fit one of the designated clusters.

Those titles that were selected for the clusters can now be studied to gain a better understanding of the original problem.

Content copied from NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

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