5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 8: Affinity Diagrams

In the last post, I discussed the inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs of the process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance.  The main set of tools are the 7 Quality Management Tools:   Affinity Diagrams, Process Decision Program Charts or PDPC, Interrelationship Digraphs, Tree Diagrams, Prioritization Matrices, Activity Network Diagrams, and Matrix Diagrams.   These tools are so important that I have decided to write a post about each of them in turn to explain more about them.

The first Quality Management tools listed is that of affinity diagrams. I am indebted to the Project Management Hut (http://www.pmhut.com) for their lucid explanation in addition to, of course, the 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide.

1. What is an affinity diagram?
It is a brainstorming tool, developed by Jiro Kawakita in the 1960s, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the “KJ Method” (in Japanese, last names are listed first).

It is a way of taking a series of facts, ideas, or data on a certain general theme and organizing it into groups of clusters based on their natural relationship or affinity.  It can be the first step towards a cause-and-effect analysis using an Ishikawa or fishbone diagram.   The 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide mentions that it can be used in project planning during the creation of the WBS generate ideas about how to decompose the scope into work packages.

2. How does it work?

You get the various stakeholders who are involved on a problem to get together. You buy a lot of variously colored post-it notes or 3×5 cards which are the “atoms” of facts or ideas that you are going to assemble into the various groupings.

Here’s the steps you take:

Step Description
1. Identify Problem Define your problem or identify a general theme. Example: why has customer satisfaction rate been declining?
2. List ideas/issues List the relevant facts, data, ideas, opinions regarding the subject and put these on the post-in notes or index cards. Post these on a noteboard or blackboard.
3. Create affinities Notice which of these notes or cards are similar and arrange them according to patterns based on those affinities.
4. Identify Groupings Label each group of similar notes or cards with a label for each Affinity group. These could be aspects of the problem under consideration. Prioritize these problems that have been identified.
5. Analyze Results Look at the overall groupings created and the facts/ideas associated with each. What insights does this create with regards to the problem stated at the beginning? Does it suggest potential solutions?
6. Share Results Share the results with the stakeholders at large.

For an example of how this would work with a real-world problem, please go to the following website because I thought they did a great job showing the various steps I outlined above.


In conclusion, the affinity diagram or KJ method is a way of synthesizing data and allowing natural patterns to emerge, which allow you to approach the problem in a more organized and systematic way in order to create a more comprehensive solution.   They can be used in conjunction with other quality tools such as the fishbone or Ishikawa diagram to uncover the potential causes of a quality problem.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide: Chapter 8: Process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance

This post gives an overview of the second of the three processes in the Quality Management Knowledge Area, namely process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance, by listing the inputs, tools & techniques of the process, and the outputs.   Perform Quality Assurance belongs to the Executing Process Group, and focuses on the processes, while Perform Quality Control (in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group) looks at the product or deliverable itself.

1.  Inputs

The first three of the inputs listed for this process are outputs of the planning process 8.1 Plan Quality.  The fourth input comes from the monitoring & controlling process 8.3 Perform Quality Control.


1. Quality Management Plan Describes the quality assurance approaches for the project.  This is an output of process 8.1 Plan Quality.
2. Process Improvement Plan Describes the continuous process improvement approaches for the project.  This is an output of process 8.1 Plan Quality.
3. Quality Metrics Provides the attributes to be measured and the allowable variations.  This is an output of process 8.1 Plan Quality.
4. Quality control measurements The output of activities from process 8.3 Perform Quality Control.  These measurements are used in this process to analyze the quality of the processes.
5. Project documents Should be monitored in this process in the context of configuration management (so all project team members work from the same version of the project documents).
1. Quality management and control tools The same tools & techniques used in process 8.1 Plan Quality and 8.3 Perform Quality Control are used in addition to the following seven tools:

  • Affinity diagrams
  • Process decision program charts (PDPC)
  • Interrelationship digraphs
  • Tree diagrams
  • Prioritization matrices
  • Activity network diagrams
  • Matrix diagrams
2. Quality audits An organized process that asks the question:  do the project activities conform to the organization’s quality policies, processes, and procedures.  All good practices that conform are identified and put in the lessons learned; those practices that don’t conform are corrected.
3. Process analysis Identifies needed improvements in processes and preventive actions needed through root-cause analysis.
1. Change requests All requests for changes that result from an audit are then input into process 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control under Integration Management.
2. Project management plan updates The following component plans are updated:

  • Quality management plan
  • Scope management plan
  • Schedule management plan
  • Cost management plan
3. Project documents updates
  • Quality audit reports
  • Training plans
  • Process documentation
4. OPAs updates
  • Organization’s quality standards
  • Quality management system (guidelines, policies, procedures)

2.  Tools & Techniques

The seven quality control tools listed are used in addition to those quality tools already listed for the other two processes in Quality Management, 8.1 Plan Quality and 8.3 Perform Quality Control.

I have reviewed all of these techniques in the context of my blog posts on Six Sigma, but for the next few blog posts, I will repurpose these blog posts, because the tools are very useful for Quality Assurance.

3.  Outputs

Since the main question asked by quality audits is whether the project activities conform to the organization’s quality policies, processes, and procedures, if the answer to the question is “no” for some of those activities, they will need to be changed to bring them into conformance.  Those change requests are the first output of this process, which then get fed into the process 4.5 Perform Integrated Change Control.

The quality management plan may be updated as a result of these audits, and the results of the quality audits will be conveyed to the project team and the relevant stakeholders as another output of the process.

The next post will cover the Cost of Quality, because this is important in now only educating stakeholders in why quality activities are being undertaken, but in setting the level of quality for a project.

The next post will cover the seven quality control tools used as part of this process.

5th Edition PMBOK Guide–Chapter 8: Perform Quality Assurance vs. Perform Quality Control

1.   Introduction

The last posts covered the inputs and outputs, as well as some of the tools & techniques of the first quality-related  process, 8.1 Plan Quality.   I was planning on going on to the second quality-related process, 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance, but then it occurred to me that I ought to do an overview of the difference between that second process and the third one, 8.3 Perform Quality Control.

In managing study groups for now two groups of students studying for the CAPM and PMP, the difference between these two processes seems to be a little unclear to many encountering it for the first time.   The reason why is that Assuring Quality and Controlling Quality seem to have the same end in mind, that is, to make sure the quality of the product or project matches what was set forth in Plan Quality, isn’t that right?   Well, the end is the same, but the focus is different.   This post will try to explain why using an analogy to baking.

2.  Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control

The first process is in the planning process group, which should be obvious from the name.   However, the word “perform” sometimes throws people off when it comes to categorizing the other two.   Perform Quality Assurance is actually in the executing process group, and Perform Quality Control is in the monitoring & controlling process group.   The reason is that quality assurance focuses on the work being done; it is being done according to the processes set forth in the Quality Management Plan?   Quality control focuses on the actual deliverables that are a product of that work, to see if they meet the level of quality in the Quality Management Plan.

I have a cookbook which provides me with a source of new recipes if I get bored with making the same old thing.   Many times the recipes work out great, but sometimes … they don’t.    I tried to make chocolate brownies from a low-fat recipe and I couldn’t figure why they came out more gooey than chewy, to put it bluntly.

At this point, I had to analyze, was it a problem with a) the ingredients, b) the recipe, or c) the equipment?    Analyzing whether I followed the steps of the recipe was an example of quality assurance.   Did I omit any steps that the recipe called for?   I couldn’t find any–at first.

Then I went to the ingredients, and tried to see if I skipped any, or added the wrong amount of any of them.   This would be more along the lines of quality control.   Nope, that wasn’t it.    The brownies tasted just fine, but the texture was off.  The final product didn’t seem like it got enough heat, and so was underdone somehow.   That’s when I figured it out–the pan was supposed to be on the middle rack, and I put it on the top rack, so it wasn’t getting the heat it required.

I did a design of experiments, and decided to make another batch with the rack in the middle, like the recipe book actually called for.   Success!   So it was not a problem with the ingredients or the equipment, but the processes I followed, in fact, the very last one of putting it in the oven in the wrong spot.   But this shows you that the focus can be on the processes or the product to find out where a quality problem is.   If you do the processes wrong, or the raw materials do not fit the specifications, or there is a problem with the equipment–any of these things can cause the product to not exhibit the quality that was specified in the quality management plan.   Although they are separate project management processes, they can be done in tandem, although in a company it is usually a quality audit team that sees if the processes are being followed in order to fulfill 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance, whereas the quality control team sees if the product is coming out as it should if the processes are being followed faithfully, in order to fulfill 8.3 Perform Quality Control.

I hope this analogy gives you a feel for the difference between the two–they have the same overall purpose, to ensure good quality in the product, but they have different focuses and that is why they are considered two separate processes.

Having made this distinction a little clearer (I hope), the next post will discuss the inputs and outputs, as well as the tools & techniques of 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance.

5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 8: Outputs of Plan Quality Management

1.  Introduction

The purpose of this post is to discuss the outputs to the process 8.1 Plan Quality Management.  This outputs are inputs to the other two quality processes as well as other project management processes from other knowledge areas.

1. Quality management plan Describes how the organization’s quality policies will be implemented, and how the project management team plans to meet the quality requirements.
2. Process improvement plan Details the steps for analyzing project management and product development processes to identify activities which add value.
3. Quality metrics Describes an attribute of the project or product and how the quality control process will measure it.  They are used in both the quality assurance and control quality processes.
4. Quality checklists Verifies that a set of required steps has been performed.  They should incorporate the acceptance criteria included in the scope baseline.
5. Project documents updates
  • Stakeholder register
  • Responsibility assignment matrix
  • WBS and WBS dictionary

2.  Outputs of Plan Quality Management

a.  Quality Management Plan

The main output of the process 8.1 Plan Quality Management is the Quality Management Plan.  This outlines the quality policies that will be implemented, so that they can be audited in the next process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance, and the quality requirements that the management team plans to meet, which is demonstrated during the monitoring and controlling activities that take place in the process 8.3 Control Quality.

b.  Process Improvement Plan

The definition of a project has been changed in the 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide.  Before it was “a unique product, service, or result”; now it’s “a unique product, service, or result OR an improvement on an existing product, service, or result.”  This expanded definition of what a project is allows for process improvement like Six Sigma to be included as projects as well.

The Process Improvement Plan is one of the four subsidiary plans (the other three are Change Management, Configuration Management, Requirements Management) in the Project Management Plan, which consists of the performance baselines and the knowledge area management plans (like the Quality Management Plan) in addition to the subsidiary plans.

Here are the elements of the Process Improvement Plan

  •       — Process boundaries (the purpose of the process, its inputs and outputs, process owner, and the stakeholders of the process)
  •        –Process configuration (showing how the various processes fit together)
  •       — Process metrics (if there are any control limits to the processes)
  •       — Targets for improved performance

The process configuration and process boundaries are analogous to the WBS and the WBS dictionary, respectively, but for processes rather than activities, in that they show how they fit together and they give details concerning them.  The metrics and the targets for improved performance show what the current performance baseline is for the current state of the processes and the future (“new and improved”) state of those processes.

c.  Quality Metrics

What are the measurable project or product attributes that can be monitored and controlled in order to control the quality?  On-time performance, defect frequency, failure rate, are all examples of such quality metrics.

d.  Quality Checklists

Checklists are used to ensure consistency in tasks, to remove the variability that the human element naturally brings.

e.  Project Document Updates

  •      Stakeholder updates (to include who gets involved in decisions about various processes, or who gets informed    about them)
  •      Responsibility assignment matrix (to include who “owns” the various processes
  •     WBS and WBS dictionary

The first three of these five outputs (Quality Management Plan, Process Improvement Plan, Quality Metrics) will turn into inputs for the next process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance, which is the subject of the next post.

The Hometown Parade: Getting our Veterans Back

I moved to Homewood, my home town, at the beginning of April in order to assist my father whose health was failing him and who needed my help to set up long-term health care so that he could regain much of the mobility he had lost in the hospital.

Today was Memorial Day and after seeing Dad (who was a veteran of the Korean War era) in the rehabilitation facility, I returned home and walked to downtown Homewood just in time to see the hometown Memorial Day parade. It was very simple: representatives of the various armed forces were escorted by the policemen and first responders whose vehicles were flashing lights but silent out of respect for the fallen servicemen to whom this day was dedicated.

Along the side of the road were the residents of Homewood, including Boy Scout troops selling American flags, proud parents of the children in the various marching bands, and the families of the veterans for whom the parade was being put on. We all waved and applauded as the various veterans groups passed, and I had a tear in my eye when the patriotic songs were being played by the marching bands which followed.

I had a chance to see the young boys and girls who had braved the inclement weather in order to be part of a parade, and then when they passed–it was over, almost as soon as it began! Everybody followed the last part of the parade as they went over to the Veterans Memorial in downtown Homewood.

By then the veterans had gathered, and I heard speeches from the heads of the local veterans group, very brief and to the point. Finally the wreaths were laid, one for each of the major conflicts of the past century: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. I assumed that this covered both the first and the second Gulf War and the subsequent war in Afghanistan, and I was sobered by the fact that it has lasted longer than any of the other wars, or as the papers like to refer to them these days, “conflicts.”

I was so heartened by the presence of the community coming together to honor the veterans who had passed away, and those who were still among us, although some of them endured wounds which they will carry for the rest of their lives. Each of the missing veterans has left a hole in the lives of the families left behind, and it was important for us all to try to fill that gap as best we could, with memories of their lives.

For if we don’t remember, then we will not have a chance to weave together again the tattered fabric that remained when they left us, or when a part of them was taken away from their own lives. I loved hearing their speeches, and the only thing I felt when I left was gratitude for what they had done for us, and a longing to hear more. As Sebastian Junger wrote in today’s Washington Post:

“Let them speak. They deserve it. In addition to getting our veterans back, we might get our nation back as well.”

What do we remember on Memorial Day?

When all of the pleasant associations of Memorial Day with the vacations, the start of summer, and barbecuing are taken into account, when else do we remember on Memorial Day?

Just like the three ghosts encountered by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, we are confronted with three specters. Usually the ghosts of Soldiers Past and Soldiers Present are whom we honor in cemeteries and in our parades, but I think we need to pay attention more to the ghosts of Soldiers Future.

When I say we honor the ghosts of Soldiers present, I’m referring to those veterans who have wounds, visible and otherwise, that are in the process of healing.

The greatest war poem in Western Civilization, the Iliad, has as its companion the greatest poem about the adjustment of a veteran (Odysseus) who in his various adventures in The Odyssey) tries to adjust to domestic life again in a post-world world. It takes him almost as many years as the war in which he fought.

The ghosts of Soldier Future I referred to are the kids who make up the audience of both the parades and the not-so-solemn entertainments that take place this weekend. Can we make sure that they do not needlessly die as soldiers in some future conflict because we did not have the courage to find a solution other than a military one?

I do not take the sacrifice of soldiers past and present lightly, and that is the very reason why I will resist sacrificing yet another generation of soldiers unless I understand the reason for that sacrifice, so that I know it is commensurate with the value of those soldiers’ lives.

And that is why I remember the past and recall the present on Memorial Day.


This post discusses the language learning app called Duolingo. I have been using this app faithfully in the past few months in order to learn two new languages, Italian and Portuguese.

I have gotten to the point where I do one lesson, which consists of answering 20 questions, every day for the past two months. In that time, I have seen my knowledge of these two languages increase to the point where I can understand entire sentences with ease.

The key is doing the exercises carefully and on a regular basis. They are very like the exercises you find in Rosetta Stone.

I really hope the makers of this app come and work on foreign languages that do not use the Western alphabet.