Categories: Agile, Business Intelligence, Business Requirements, Change Management, Communication, Leadership, Organizational Project Management, Process Improvements, Risk Management, Stakeholder Management
When there is lot of information coming our way during scope management plan, it is hard to sort through everything and organize the information in a way that makes sense and help the project team to make meaningful decisions. Whether we are brainstorming ideas, or when the team members are dealing with lot of information from a variety of sources, we can end up spending a huge amount of time trying to collect all the bits and pieces. Rather than letting the disjointed information get the best of us, we use an affinity diagram to help organize the information we collected during this process.
In my experience most decision-making exercises begin with brainstorming, and I think this is one of the most common application of affinity diagram. Usually after a brainstorming session we will come across pages of ideas. And, in most cases these won't be edited in any way, many of them will be very similar, and many will be closely related to other ideas in a variety of ways.
In my current project, each team member decided to write ideas on a separate sticky note and put them on a wall. Then we sorted ideas into groups by asking, what ideas are similar? Is this idea connected to any of the others? etc. We kept on moving the sticky notes around until consensus were reached. We continued to group ideas until we had reached the broadest.
The brainstorming session was the most challenging during the collect requirement process. We gathered ideas and content from all team members and key stakeholders. The data gathered were analyzed and different patterns were grouped and created. With the results available and the information gathered from team members, this diagram was presented to sponsor and key stakeholders to ensure that they had a heads up on the structure created.
Affinity diagrams are great tools for grouping and understanding large amounts of information. When you work through the process of creating relationships and working backwards from detailed information to broad groups, you get an insight you would not otherwise find. Team members themselves brainstormed and reorganized data which otherwise may not provide good results.
The lesson we learned from the project was that next time when we are confronting a large amount of information or number of ideas and if we feel overwhelmed at first glance, will use the affinity diagram approach to discover all the hidden linkages. And when we cannot see the forest for the trees, an affinity diagram may be exactly what we need to get back in focus.