Introduction Quality planning involves the identification of quality standards that are crucial for a project as well as determining ways of satisfying the relevant standards. During the planning process, project and quality managers use additional quality planning tools such as affinity diagrams for brainstorming ideas, nominal group techniques for the identification and ranking of major problems that need to be addressed, and flowcharts to assist in the identification of gaps in a workflow that may cause errors or problems. Affinity Diagram DescriptionAffinity diagram refers to the visual representation that identifies the core facets of a problem and organizes the groups of information into coherent categories.
This method helps one to see all the aspects of a problem in order to figure out those that are related. It highlights patterns and themes that could otherwise go unrecognized, and thus, enabling one to address the problems in a meaningful manner, rather than just as a scattered collection of unrelated issues. It is used in the initial stages of synthesis to generate a more creative way of thinking and reveal new pattern of thoughts (Kolko 45).
The construction of the affinity diagram involves listing of all the elements that are related to the problem context (i. e. a word, quote, phrase, photograph or image) on discrete note cards. The designers externalize the data so as to create affinity elements through contextual inquiry sessions or interviews onto individual note cards. The cards are physically repositioned on the board, with related ideas placed in proximity to one another, based on their thematic similarity. Since all ideas have been fundamentally linked, the affinity diagram is basically an interpretation and a judgment process (Cowley and Domb 171-172).
Use of affinity diagram as a quality planning tool. Gathering and organizing informationAn affinity diagram is an effective tool for gathering and organizing information in an organization so as to get meaningful categories. It enables one to gather, correlate and relate large quantities of information, especially verbal or written comments (Soleimannejed 94). Organizing team’s thoughts more effectively. When issues are large and complex (such as having many customer requirements or when everything seem chaotic), the affinity diagram helps the team members to organize their thoughts in a most effective way, and thus, breaking out of the old and traditional way of thinking.
The organization of information is done by using a more organic and creative approach, and thus, understanding the user’s needs during the analysis (Soleimannejed 94). Shows relationships between items and groups. An affinity diagram helps the managers to naturally group various ideas and customer’s requirements according to their similarities. Gathered information such as customers’ needs, wants, opinions and ideas are broken down and analyzed in order to identify natural relationships between them (Cowley and Domb 170).
States and examines an issue in broad terms. The affinity diagram generates numerous ideas within a shorter time, unlike in the verbal brainstorming process. It also provides some anonymity for contentious or difficult issues hence arriving at a suitable outcome. The grouping of ideas leads to group agreement thus providing a collective ownership of results in the implementation process (Soleimannejed 94).