Map Your Career Through Value Streams

by Teresa Whitacre

When we first embark on our chosen career paths, we are often told—through college courses, career counselors or vocational training—to map where we see ourselves five or 10 years down the line. By mapping our talents, knowledge base and training, we might get a clear picture of what our future careers hold.

But how many of us map our careers at a later point? Have you tried to benchmark your career after 10, 15 or 20 years to determine whether you are still going the direction you chose?

A value stream is all actions, both value creating and not, that are required to bring a product from initial launch to delivery. The product is your career—how you started it and where your actions have delivered you until now. As a value stream manager, you have the responsibility for the success of the product. You need to identify your career’s value to you as well as to your employer or clients.

Value is the inherent worth of something—as judged by the recipient. The value you provide your employer or client is shown through such things as compensation, recognition, opportunity and satisfaction levels.

Organizational Value Streams

One organization created value stream maps of its overall compensation packages, beginning by benchmarking against other area firms of the same size. This organization looked at overall salary per position type, incentive pay and benefits packages.

As part of its current state, the organization also surveyed new hires and current employees to determine how the organization’s overall compensation package was perceived. Here are some of the questions and breakdowns of answers:

  • Is pay competitive? 90% of respondents said yes, 10% said no.
  • Is your contribution to your benefits package competitive? 60% yes, 40% no.
  • Is your incentive program competitive? 98% yes, 2% no.
  • Is your allotment of paid time off, including vacations and holidays, fair? 96% yes, 4% no.

Other items of the current state value stream process included asking pointed questions about other services the organization provided. Feedback included the following

  • The current expense account processor takes too long to send reimbursements.
  • The current administrator for work related injuries is too difficult to contact.
  • There are too many people to contact when an individual needs to apply for a leave of absence.

This organization’s study might have you asking, “What does this have to do with my career?” The answer is plenty. Value is worth something to the receiver. If my employees perceive they are more valuable to someone else, I have a good chance of losing them solely on their value perception.

Doing such current state studies doesn’t mean I have to give every employee a raise simply because he or she wants one, or that I must improve benefits all the time. However, such value stream studies show me what is important to those I employ.

Map Your Career

Do a value stream map of your current career (see Figure 1, p. 71). Then compare it to when you first started in your current career. Do you see significant differences—in direction, wants and needs, in where you are vs. where you wanted to be? Most likely, you will find what you perceived as value early on has changed.

Create a new current state of values (see Figure 2). Does this differ from your plans for the future? Determine your future state, including opportunities for improvement you’ve identified to help you perform at a higher level or raise your goals.

Once you have identified those areas for improvement—your revised values—then plan your career accordingly to follow the new path.

Value stream mapping is a good tool that can be used in any process. Analyze the process from the customer’s perspective (in this case, yours and your employers), concentrating on the value of what is received. Look at the current state for inefficiencies, goals not met and areas for improvement. Look at the future state, focusing on those improvements needed to reach the goal. Implement the changes and continually improve toward your goals or values.

Once you put your goals on paper, the current and future states are much easier to understand.

TERESA WHITACRE is a quality supervisor with Respironics Inc., a respiratory device manufacturer and distributor in Youngwood, PA. She is a senior member of ASQ and a certified quality manager, technician, auditor and engineer. Whitacre authored a quality technology text used by the ASQ Pittsburgh Section for certified mechanical inspector and certified quality technician courses and has instructed training courses for both.

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