PMP Affinity Diagram: Uses, Steps and Examples

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23rd Dec, 2022
PMP Affinity Diagram: Uses, Steps and Examples

Have you found yourself in situations where there is a lot of data, but you do not know how to make sense of it? Or have you been in a position where you are getting a lot of feedback and suggestions, but they are confusing or hard to action? These are some of the situations where you will need to use project management tools. An affinity diagram is one such tool that will help you simplify unstructured or unorganized data.

PMP affinity diagram and many other similar tools are a part of the PMP certification preparation course. A good PMP training ensures both the theoretical aspects of project management and how to implement the learnings in real-world environments. It is truly an investment that pays off great returns. 

Affinity diagrams enable you to visualize data and correlate different data sets, making it easier to take informed decisions. As projects get bigger and more complex, it becomes difficult to coordinate all efforts in achieving project goals. Frequent meetings and interactions with different teams will be required for this. You will have to deal with data pouring in from various sources and use this information to make informed decisions. Such decisions form the basics of Project Management as a discipline. This is where getting a Project Management certification sets you up for long-term career success. It validates your skills as a project manager.  

What Is an Affinity Diagram?  

While handling diverse types of unorganized data from various sources, you need methods to organize ideas or thoughts. This must be done in a manner that will make it easy for you to categorize and communicate those ideas in a logical manner. Affinity Diagrams help you categorize ideas or thoughts which are usually unorganized, and even map valid relationships between the categories. This gives you the visibility of what all data and ideas you have access to and where they fit. 

The ability to plot ideas on a board or a table will give you the capability to go ahead with the most relevant ideas and understand how they may impact each other. This will help you get into a position from where you can start acting on ideas. 

Know more about importance of project charter.

Why Use an Affinity Diagram?

Affinity diagrams are useful in several ways. Having too many data points from different data sources can be hard to deal with as you may not be able to immediately identify where each part goes. 


Affinity diagrams simplify ideas and arrange them in a way where it is easy to understand what idea is relevant in what context. If you have access to a lot of raw data and no useful way to see it in terms of gathering insight, the data is being wasted. 


Ideas can be categorized into functional areas or grouped in a way where similar issues can happen. Such matters can be addressed together or in close coordination instead of having to come back to a similar issue later and not realizing how an earlier decision would have impacted it.  


When data is organized or categorized, it is easier to see the context in it or what exactly can be inferred from a particular set of data. It also gives you the freedom to compare data and see patterns emerging from them. 

Identify interrelationship 

When you group ideas into categories, you can also draw relationships between them. Like a few hiring requirements needed will have an implication on the finance department. This is an example of how categories can be interlinked 


An analysis of the data or ideas can bring up suggestions which can be further classified by how easy it is to do or by the magnitude of change implementing that would make. Based on such considerations you can decide what tasks or implementation should be prioritized while moving ahead.  

Know more about characteristics of project management.

When Should You Use an Affinity Diagram?

There are many times when you would need to use an affinity diagram. The following are a few scenarios where you might benefit from using an affinity diagram. 

Unstructured data 

If the data you are dealing with is unstructured or unorganized, then using an affinity diagram may give you clarity on how to use the data and unravel what the data represents.  

Subjective feedback 

Typically, while doing surveys while gathering feedback, most of the data is standardized. There is a part which is left to the respondent to fill in a long form or in an unstructured manner. 


Brainstorming sessions are free flowing discussions where innovative ideas are generated and discussed. There is someone making a note of these ideas, but these ideas are not selected or rejected at this stage. They are not even categorized. With an Affinity Diagram these ideas can be classified and analyzed.  


When an idea is too complex and impacts different teams and stakeholder expectations, it would be helpful to list out all the places it impacts and the dependencies so that it becomes easier to understand. 

Too many stakeholders 

When there are too many people from different departments and teams involved in a project, you will have to put ideas in a way that everyone can understand from their own perspective.  

When Should You Avoid Affinity Diagram?

While Affinity diagrams and similar tools are highly effective when they work, there are times when they may be unnecessary. Affinity diagrams are suited for situations where the data is too complex or unorganized. Hence you may not want to use affinity diagrams in the following scenarios. 

Structured data 

When the dataset you are operating with is already structured, it is easy to make sense of it. You will not get any additional insight spending time on making an affinity diagram. 

Limited data set 

If you only have limited data that can be manually handled, making a diagram will not help you add much value.  

Clear and simple 

If the idea being discussed is clear and easily understandable to all the stakeholders an affinity diagram is not required. 

How To Use Affinity Diagram? 

Affinity diagrams are not a new invention. They are a tried and tested project management technique invented by Jiro Kawakita (sometimes also called the KJ Method) in the 1960s. Once you have completed organizing data or ideas on an affinity diagram it becomes easy to make sense of the data you have. 

You can have categories and sub-categories. You can also draw up relationships between categories wherever they are relevant. 

Once you have completed the Affinity Diagram, the next step is to use it to decide what decisions to take based on what the data reveals. You can also use it to see which ideas will work well together by tracing their impact and interdependency on other categories. 

Steps To Create an Affinity Diagram

Steps To Create an Affinity Diagram

As Affinity diagrams are popularly used in the context of brainstorming sessions, let us explore how one would go about creating an affinity diagram during and after a brainstorming session. 

Step 1: Set up 

Let all participants know what they are expected to do, assign a leader to take charge of proceedings. It works best if the participants come from different teams or departments. 

Step 2: Generating ideas 

There is no discussion about the merits of an idea at this stage. You must make sure that the ideas are captured and documented. 

Step 3: Categorization 

This can be done virtually in a project management tool or physically by using sticky notes. This is the key part of the process. Take the first idea and then put it up on the board, pick the next one and place it alongside the first one if it should be in the same category or make it a separate category. By the time you have categorized all the ideas, you should have around 5 to 8 categories and possibly sub-categories as well. 

Step 4: Analysis 

Once the Affinity Diagram is completed, then you can understand where all the ideas fit in and evaluate them based on their merit and implications. This process will lead towards acting based on the ideas or data that has been analyzed. 

What Does It Look Like? Examples of Affinity Diagrams 

To explore the concepts discussed we can look at a situation where your organization decides to use a new project management system with advanced features. Run a brainstorming session to discuss the implementation or whether the implementation should happen at all. 

All participants give their opinions or ideas. There is a designated individual who notes down each point on sticky notes. Once the session is over, then all the sticky notes are arranged into suitable categories. There might be a category of ideas that go against the new project management system being implemented. It may have subcategories citing financial issues, training needs, lack of acceptance etc. The image below is representative. An actual affinity diagram would have many more ideas. 

Examples of Affinity Marketing

You may find a category of ideas suggesting a partial implementation, or a staggered deployment in distinct stages. At the end of the categorization, it becomes easier to weigh the merits of each argument and compare it to other alternatives. The ideas or opinions are not repeated. They can be taken into context and assessed independently free from a bias to conform or resist.  

Based on this analysis you will be in a good position to decide how to move ahead with the project. 

Importance of Affinity Diagram in PMP 

As technology evolves and customer requirements increase the task of a project manager becomes even more complex. You will have to stay updated with the latest data and manage unique needs and challenges posed by various stakeholders. Certifications like PMP will introduce you to many tools and practices through which you could handle these complex requirements.  

Learning the PMP affinity diagram along with a range of other tools and concepts is required for you to clear PMP exam and become PMP certified. Affinity diagram in PMP is one of the 23 tools used to visualize data and information as listed in the PMI’s publication, ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)’.  

The fact that affinity diagrams have stood the test of time proves its effectiveness as a necessary tool in the project manager’s arsenal. As a tool to simplify ideas and even data, such tools are sure to stay relevant for a long time to come.  

You can start your project management journey with a comprehensive course that is aligned with latest edition of the PMBOK® and prepares you thoroughly on all concepts, tools, and aspects of project management. The KnowledgeHut PMP Course achieves this by having experts with hands-on experience in project leadership roles leading the training sessions. Before we talk more about PMP, let us try to understand how exactly an affinity diagram works.

Frequently asked questions 

Q. What is an affinity diagram?

An affinity diagram is a visual tool used to organize and categorize ideas. Using this tool, you get to understand ideas that may seem unrelated or confusing.

Q. What is an affinity diagram example?

Affinity diagrams are ideal to visualize ideas that come out of a brainstorming session. Especially if the session hosted participants from diverse backgrounds. An affinity diagram would help in categorizing the ideas and mapping relationships between them in meaningful ways.   

Q. What is context diagram in PMP?

Context diagram is a visual tool which is used to explain the scope of a product. It showcases the system it operates in and other related systems.  

Q. What is the difference between mind mapping and affinity diagram?

Mind mapping and affinity diagrams are both tools used to visualize ideas, mind mapping is free flowing and explorative in nature. Affinity diagrams are used to categorize and organize ideas in a structured and logical manner. While both tools have a similarity in their nature their purpose differs significantly.  




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