Print Share Home

Save Me From Extinction - New Age Thinking For the 21st Century


Marilyn Gettinger, C.P.M.
Marilyn Gettinger, C.P.M., President, New Directions Consulting Group, Cranford, NJ 07016, 908-709-0656,

85th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 2000 

Several books have been published in the last few years describing the company of the future. That organization will be:

  • Nimble
  • Adaptable
  • Customer-driven
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Global in perspective
  • Strategically oriented
  • Proactive, experimental, and have a bias for speed
  • Innovative

The 21st century company will empower its people, break barriers, embrace learning, and create its own rules.

Every purchasing professional needs to take an immediate inventory of one's skills, talents, education, etc. Then ask himself/herself a very important question, "Do I have what it takes to fit into this new business paradigm that is now on the horizon?"

With no exception, everyone will need to begin today to make some changes to journey into the future successfully. There are already signs of the new business paradigm all around us pushing us to get into action. Just how do we begin? Where do we start?

  1. Acknowledgement: We need first to acknowledge the skills and talents we have exhibited that have made us successful up to this point. These attributes were great for the 20th century - not a thing wrong with any of them. However, the new millennium will call for a new set of skills.

  2. Being able to let go: We need to be willing to let go of the past and embrace new ways of doing and thinking not because we have been doing things the wrong way but because the 2st century demands new thinking.

  3. Courageness: Every purchasing professional must question oneself on every project, task, process, etc. and ask, "Is this the best way to do this?" or "Is there a way to do this that I have not thought of or never tried before?" All of us must be willing to experiment with new ideas and concepts and exhibit a willingness to struggle and possibly fail in the effort to experiment.

  4. Think differently, see differently: The biggest career challenges will be psychological. How we frame things at work, and the way we process events in our head. Our attitudes and outlook about how we operate. The future marketplace won't accommodate our old belief systems. We must develop "out-of-the-box thinking". We must be willing to experiment and question the status quo.

  5. Creative: Every one of us needs to work on bringing one's creative skills out of hiding. This means experimenting with brainstorming, clustering, new ideas, open mindedness, and diversity and asking a very important question, "Why are we doing it that way? Is that really the best way to do that task?" We need to learn to embrace conflict and view it as a tool that forces new thinking.

  6. Change masters: We all need to accept that the only thing we can count on is c"hange". First, we ourselves have to accept this as a fact of life. Secondly, we must acknowledge that "change" is accelerating driven by technology and global competition. We must understand the dynamics of change so that we can support employees, peers, and ourselves though this process. Change causes the same emotions as a separation or even death in human beings. We need to educate ourselves in this process and embrace change as an opportunity. Our mindset must be one of purpose, adventure, optimism, and faith. We need to operate with a spirit of curiosity and a hope for breakthroughs. Migrate to this level of thinking, and we can meet the 2st century on its own terms.

  7. Master communicators: Change, technology, global dynamics, team orientation, etc. will demand that we understand the skills required for effective communication - speaking, writing, body language, training, and how we present ourselves in the workplace. All purchasing professionals must learn to speak in terms that their senior management can understand. We need to ask ourselves, "Here is what I have to say, and how am I going to get that to my audience so they get it in their terms?"

  8. Team players: Our organizations are moving slowly away from the functional or silo organizational mode. Everyone must learn how to successfully participate in a cross-functional team orientation. This calls for us to be open minded to other's ideas, committed to the success of the team's goals and objectives, developing a sense of ownership for the team and the other team members, and learning how to make decisions and solve problems as a team member.

  9. Project oriented: We can already see organizations emphasizing projects. Purchasing personnel must learn how to set goals and objectives, establish milestones, handle obstacles, get buy-in from others, develop plans, make decisions, create charts and diagrams, and track projects to completion. In other words, we must learn all of the set of skills and techniques that make for the rewarding process of managing projects. We must also begin to think in a project mode.

  10. Innovative: We must be willing to see things in new ways. We need to challenge the norm and make trying out new ideas and skills a religion. We need to reward our employees and peers for new thinking even if we don't use the new concept. Thus, we begin to create an environment that sparking new ideas is the way to go.

  11. Opportunity-minded: We must think of ourselves as explorers in a New World. Every experience and every set back is an opportunity to learn and challenge yesterday's successes. We must set our minds to keep challenging ourselves, keep letting go, keep asking ourselves, "Is there a better way to build that mousetrap?" We must learn to turn every defeat and/or failure around and give it a successful twist.

  12. Entrepreneurial: We must think of ourselves as a business and a service center. What value-added service can we provide to our organizations? How can I sell my ideas? Entrepreneurs are not afraid of taking risks. They love to take on challenges. They, so to speak, step off the mountain and create as they go down.

  13. Stay schooled: New ideas, new technology, new concepts are evolving at a rapid speed. Every purchasing professional must make on-going education a given. There is no job, career, etc. that will stay the same. It has been proven over and over again, organizations that believe in training as a way of life, have positive results on their bottomlines. The same principle applies to the purchasing professional. Read, Read, Read.

  14. Learn to live with ambiguity: Change brings plenty of unknowns. We need to learn to live with plenty of unknowns and outcomes we cannot control. Somehow, we need to dance with whatever comes our way. Every experience whether expected or a surprise is an opportunity for new knowledge stretching us to move out of our comfortable box.

  15. Be a leader: Leaders do just that. They get out in front and lead. They put themselves in the "learning mode" not the "I know everything mode". Leaders use setbacks or breakdowns not as an opportunity of finger pointing but as a challenge to finding new ways to play the game.

  16. Quick-change artist: We must learn to be like chameleons. Every one of us must develop all of our talents, all of instincts, and be ready at a moment's notice to change gears. We must be able to communicate at all levels. We must keep adding to our bag of tricks.

These suggestions may appear overwhelming. All it takes to get started is one step, and you are on your way.

Thousands of years ago, the dinosaurs disappeared from our planet. There are a lot of scientific views how this all happened. None of them really confirmed. In fact, the dinosaurs never even knew what hit them. It was all over in a flash. There is no reason for our business extinction nor is there any excuse. We are far more fortunate. The signs of tremendous upheaval are all around us. All it takes is that first step. Begin to think differently and we are on our way into the 21st century leaving the possibility of extinction far behind us.

Book references:

Kiernan, Mattew. J. The Eleven Commandments of 21st Century Management. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1996.

Prtichett, Price. The Employee Handbook of New Work Habits For The Next Millenium. Dallas, Texas: Pritchett & Associates, 1999

Pritchett, Price. New Work Habits For A Radically Changing World. Dallas, Texas: Pritchett & Associates, 1994

Back to Top