|OT - Evolution of Communication Speed|
I actually wrote a grad-school paper (ca. 1994) on this subject, with an eye on business decisionmaking. In short, we've moved from an environment of fast messages with little content (heliograph, semaphore, etc) and slow messages with large content (couriers, sailing ships) to increasing both speed and payload.
The theory of constraints says *some* limiting factor remains. Until fairly modern times, the limiting factor on "good" decisions was timely information. Therefore, organizations evolved to delegate decision power to the local (geographic) level - viceroys, governors, "factors," and such. Distributed, but uncoordinated.
With the advent of mechanical and electronic communication, the speeds increased the geographic spans of decision power, and organizations responded by becoming more centralized - coordinated, but not distributed. For the first time, *too much* information became available, and it needed to be filtered - thus evolving the clerical functions of "middle management."
Now, much of that filtering can be done electronically, but the challenge of managing data saturation is a concern for *everyone* in a company, not just senior executives. Many line-level employees have to apply the judgement skills (and take the risks) that were reserved to the (now shrinking) middle-management. Conversely, risk-averse managers have a greater temptation to succumb to the sin of micro-management while sacrificing effective people-management.
My conclusion (at the time) was that organizations which emphasized trust and judgement at ALL levels were the ones that would succeed in an "information" economy. Coordination AND distribution were the keys to success.
So, how is this AMAT related? Well, I wrote that paper the year I was working (as a contractor) at Applied's Austin facility, and I was fascinated by the culture. The company basically served as the template for my conclusion. I haven't had any reason to change my assessment of the *culture* since - although the company has endured some fairly traumatic business cycles.