[LEADERSHIP] Leaders, be they executives, supervisors or individual contributors are often faced with sorting out thoughts and gaining consensus.

That’s where the Total Quality Management tool, the Affinity Diagram comes into play. (Actually, most of us think of it as the “Post-It” exercise.)

post-it exerciseYou can use this method to sort out any complex problem or project. You can also use it to get ideas out on the table … about any topic of interest. The purpose is to get a wealth of different thoughts and organize them in a way that everyone comes to consensus. (Or, if you’re using this tool on your own, it will sort out complex thoughts.)

Here’s a One-Sheet, Quick Reference Guide on the Affinity Diagram you can download with the directions.

You’ll see that the four basic steps are:

  1. Brainstorm … all ideas are good.
  2. Sort (Silently).
  3. Select Category Headings and Clarify … here’s where you can question.
  4. Prioritize

NOTE: We used this tool to organize over a hundred scattered files into a new digital file structure with a Tech-Talk user. She tossed away her five pages of useless notes she had before the Affinity Diagram and finally came up with something she liked quite quickly.