In manufacturing, this became highly codified, using techniques from management gurus such as W. Edwards Deming, including the use of Lean and Six Sigma coupled with employee co-ownership in the form of quality circles and Toyota's "anyone can stop the assembly line" philosophy. The 1990s and 2000s saw a continuing hollowing out of middle management, the introduction of part-time and contract labor forces, and the replacement of routine work with robots, software, and offshore workers (in societies that largely had no individual-empowerment culture).
That left many companies with a smaller set of knowledge workers retained because they could think for themselves, as well as use their intuition, personal skills, and so on, whether for sales, customer service, product design, or operations.
The new workforce favors those who rely on themselvesThe result is a workforce of nomads who come together as needed, using a wide range of resources in a variety of locations. Inevitably, that nomadism accentuates the importance of the tools these employees use to do the work they're valued for. As each person's individual strengths vary, so do the tools they prefer to use -- and begin to insist on using.
This phenomenon is by no means unique to knowledge workers. Many tradespeople -- contractors and chefs, for example -- have long used their own equipment because of the perceived better fit, quality, and/or feel. Software, computing devices, and the like are the knowledge worker's equivalent.
Given these fundamental shifts in both business structures and the type of value desired from individual employees, a rift has developed between those new realities and the structures that live on from the "company man" era. For example, employees are told to manage all or most of their retirement savings and to keep up their skills on their own dime and time. The company may help a bit, but it no longer takes care of employees in these ways. The notion of a job marriage, where doing your job meant lifelong employment and a secure retirement, is gone.
Thus, the relationship between the employee and employer has changed to one of ad hoc participation. As long as it makes sense for both the employee and employer, the relationship stands. When either decides the relationship is no longer desired, it's over.
The clash between old and new creates the clash between users and ITYet the old "company man" approach lives on in IT and other operational systems. One example is the notion of a standard technology environment, where PCs and their software are reliably stamped out in identical units like cookies in a Mothers factory. The other is the notion that employees need to be protected from risk, by having it removed via technology wherever possible.